FT: ‘Iraqi Christians opt for Lebanon’

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(Christians in the Northern Iraqi city of Kirkuk, an increasingly infrequent sight)

Interesting article from the Financial Times about Iraqi Christian refugees resettling in Lebanon in relatively large numbers. Despite Lebanon’s terrible track record of refugee treatment, the dwindling Iraqi Christian population is attracted to Lebanon for it’s reputation as a partly-Christian ruled country in an otherwise Muslim dominated region, and because job opportunities are much easier to come across in Lebanon than in neighboring Syria. The number of Christian refugees flowing into Lebanon doesn’t appear large enough to upset the country’s delicate sectarian balance. Although the proportion of Iraqi Christians to the total Iraqi population was never large, it appears that if anything, more of a lasting mark will be left on Iraq, the source of the refugees, where in spite of a recent upturn in the number of returning refugees, few Iraqi Christians plan ever to return.

(Financial Times) — The UNHCR has registered some 10,000 of the estimated 50,000 Iraqis in Lebanon but the government does not recognise their refugee status. Lebanese officials say Iraqis are treated no differently than other illegal immigrants who evade the country’s tough entry conditions. Lebanon’s fractured sectarian landscape and the presence of some 350,000 Palestinian refugees makes the country reluctant to absorb more foreigners. As with the Iraqis, the legal status of the Palestinians in Lebanon is among the worst in the region. Fearing that their presence will upset the sectarian balance, Lebanon has denied Palestinians work opportunities and a chance to integrate for decades. In spite of the intimidating atmosphere, Iraq’s Christian community has been heading for Lebanon in relatively large numbers. Lebanon’s reputation as a partly Christian-ruled country in a Muslim-dominated region has been part of the lure… Click for full article.

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