Archbishop says government is discriminating against Christian Syrian refugees

Prime Minister David Cameron has pledged that Britain will take up to 20,000 extra Syrian refugees.Reuters

The Archbishop of Canterbury has warned the Prime Minister that his policy on refugees is discriminating against Christians in Syria, according to the Telegraph.

The government's policy is to take around 20,000 Syrian refugees from camps in the region. However, at a meeting with David Cameron last week, Most Rev Justin Welby is believed to have told him that this risks excluding almost all Christians from the asylum programme. This is because Christians have avoided going to the camps because they are afraid of being targeted by Islamist groups operating inside them.

While the government is commited to taking refugees on the basis of need and will not formally discriminate on the basis of religion, the Archbishop is concerned that the effect of this policy will be to bar Syrian Christians from Britain.

In a speech in the House of Lords last week, Welby said that "within the camps there is significant intimidation and radicalisation, and many particularly of the Christian population who have been forced to flee are unable to be in the camps".

He went on: "What is the Government's policy of reaching out to those who are not actually in the camps?"

Former Archbishop of Canterbury Lord Carey made a similar point, writing in the Telegraph: "The frustration for those of us who have been calling for compassion for Syrian victims for many months is that the Christian community is yet again left at the bottom of the heap.

"Mr Cameron's policy inadvertently discriminates against the very Christian communities most victimised by the inhuman butchers of the so-called Islamic State.

"Christians are not to be found in the UN camps, because they have been attacked and targeted by Islamists and driven from them. They are seeking refuge in private homes, church buildings and with neighbours and family."

Tens of thousands of people marched to Westminster yesterday in a display of solidarity for refugees and opposition to the government's policy of severely limiting their ability to come to the UK. Campaigners point out that at only 4,000 a year, Britain's contribution towards rehoming refugees is far less than that of other countries. However, supporters point towards Britain's relatively generous support of the refugee camps to which many Syrians have fled, arguing that it is better to care for people close to where they live and encourage them to return home when it is safe to do so.