European aid luring middle class Christians away from Syria, says Archbishop of Aleppo

European aid to Christians in Syria targets middle class Christians and is equivalent to deportation, according to the Archbishop of Aleppo.

Smoke rises over the industrial city in Aleppo, Syria February 4, 2016Reuters

Jean-Clément Jeanbart said European countries have been targeting the "backbone of our society", luring middle class Syrian Christians to leave the country in hope of a better life.

"We've not only seen people leave, but also seen countries offering them free flights and visas they've hardly asked for," he told Radio Notre Dame. "They are taking the few remaining is as if there were a deportation."

On a visit to Paris, the Melkite Greek archbishop said that half of the Christians in Aleppo, the largest city in Syria, had already left.

"It is the middle class, the backbone of our society, that is being absorbed," he said.

Without naming the states he was referring to, he said that this exodus they were perpetuating was detrimental to Syria.

"We think that leaving harms the country and the migrants themselves, because they are dreaming of a better world, which could exist if there are reforms in their own country," he said.

The situation is stable in Aleppo, he said, adding that Christians are able to attend religious services more freely than before. He credited this to President Bashar al-Assad's government: "We have no problem practising our religion wherever the government is in control. We have very good relations with the Muslims, who make up 80 per cent of the population."

Education is stable in these government controlled areas, with Muslims and Christians attending school together, he said.

Although he said he was neither for nor against Assad, he said: "If the regime collapses and the president leaves, there will be countless local wars everywhere. People will kill each other. It will be terrible."