More than 200 Syrian Christian Refugees Granted Asylum In Belgium, Escaping ‘Dire Conditions’

( [email protected] ) Jul 09, 2015 09:09 PM EDT
The Belgian government announced on Wednesday that it has helped 244 Christian refugees escape from Syria and move to Belgium. Most of the refugees are families with children.
Syrian refugee children, who have been living in Jordan with their family for about two and a half years after fleeing the violence in their Syrian hometown of Idlib, are pictured in their family tent at an informal tented settlement in Madaba city, near Amman, Jordan, July 9, 2015. The number of Syrian refugees in neighboring countries has passed 4 million, the U.N. refugee agency UNHCR said on Thursday, adding that the total was on course to reach 4.27 million by the end of 2015. REUTERS/Muhammad Hamed

The Belgian government announced on Wednesday that it has helped 244 Christian refugees escape from Syria and move to Belgium. Most of the refugees are families with children.

According to a report from Agence France-Presse, the minority Christians came from the Syrian city of Aleppo, where intense fighting between Islamist rebels and forces under Syrian President Bashar al-Assad has occurred. Theo Francken, Belgium's Secretary of State for Asylum Policy and Migration, elaborated on the status of the Christians.

"They will receive permanent protection status," Francken said, adding that Christians would be allowed to "rebuild a future in Belgium."

Francken, who is also a member of a nationalist party in Belgium, emphasized that "the last thing they want is to be dependent on social security." However, AFP reported that the Belgian government has accepted "98 percent" of Syrian requests for refugee status.

According to AFP, the Syrian Christians would receive training in language skills and help to find jobs after being granted refugee status in Belgium. AFP explained how the refugees were selected for relocation to Belgium.

"The minority Christians were selected by a citizen 'action committee' run by a Belgian diplomat and a psychiatrist with a network of contacts in the country," AFP wrote. "They left Aleppo in small groups and in seven phases."

At a press conference in Brussels, Belgian Foreign Minister Didier Reynders pointed out that the humanitarian operation began in May to "save" some of the most vulnerable people in Aleppo. Although it was just "a drop" compared to Europe's migration crisis, he hoped other European countries would follow Belgium's example.

"They reached the Lebanese border 'on their own, crossing very dangerous areas of Syria,' then received support from the Belgian embassy in Beirut which arranged for refugee visas after a 'very precise screening' by the intelligence services," AFP wrote, citing Reynders.

According to a report from Sky News, Belgium has welcomed 5,500 Syrian refugees of all faiths since the conflict began in Syria in 2011. The United Nations indicated that from the 137,000 people who fled to Europe via the Mediterranean Sea in the first six months of 2015, many through human traffickers, a third of them were from Syria.

"This is the biggest refugee population from a single conflict in a generation," UN refugee chief Antonio Guterres said in a statement. "It is a population that needs the support of the world but is instead living in dire conditions and sinking deeper into poverty."

The UN added that around 270,000 Syrians have sought asylum in Europe. Sky News reported that more than 4,000 Syrians have been granted asylum in the United Kingdom.

"By March of this year, a further 187 specially selected refugees had been resettled in Britain as part of a Government scheme to protect victims of violence and other vulnerable people," Sky News wrote.

According to the UN, more than 230,000 people have been killed in Syria's civil war, which has pitted pro-Assad forces, rebels, and jihadist groups against each other.

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