Iraqi Christian refugees at risk of funding shortage

Iraqi refugees, who fled from the violence in Mosul, use containers to collect water inside the Khazer refugee camp on the outskirts of Arbil in Iraq's Kurdistan.(Photo: Reuters)

According to a Catholic official, Iraqi Christian refugees in Jordan who were driven out of their homeland by the Islamic State militants may soon find food and shelter scarce.

Father Noor Alqasmosa, a Syriac Catholic priest charged with helping the refugees, disclosed to the Catholic News Service that the funding supporting the displaced Christians will soon run out.

According to the Vatican Radio, Iraqi Christian refugees in Jordan numbered more than 5,000 in December. Father Noor said that the figure now stands at 7,000.

With these huge numbers and a limited amount of resources, Christian churches and the Catholic charity Caritas Jordan, which together have made makeshift lodgings for the refugees and even help those who were able to find quarters to rent with their bills, are finding it hard to continue supporting the refugees.

What's more, many Iraqi Christians will not be able to start a new life abroad as the United States and other Western countries are apparently prioritising Syrian refugees.

"I was shocked when I was told that neither the US nor the EU would take in Iraqi Christians from Mosul and Ninevah for resettlement," said Father Noor.

But according to the UN refugee agency UNHCR, the Catholic Herald reports, there is "no favouritism when it comes to resettling refugees" as it is volunteer countries that tell them how many refugees they can accommodate.

"We don't preference caseloads. Resettlement is based on vulnerability. UNHCR does not technically do resettlement. Rather, countries come forward and say we have room for X, Y and Z," said Aoife McDonnell, a UNHCR spokeswoman, explained.

"We don't have the capacity to resettle everyone. We don't have enough donor countries to come forward," McDonnell added. "We are working on the advocacy side so that people who really do need to be resettled can be. And we hope that more countries will come forward to support that."

The concerned Father Noor also reported that the Caritas funding they have would last only until the end of February.

According to Father Noor, church agencies in the US and Germany "are aiding Caritas Jordan, and there is some help from the papal fund." However, "there has been no other assistance from the international community."

To remedy that, Caritas' communications officer Dana Shahin appealed for help on behalf of the Iraqi refugees, particularly the children, last month.

She urged the international community to "contribute in whatever possible way [they can]... in order to protect the future [particularly] of the kids of the refugees."

She said, "We do not want these children to become a generation lost to war and indifference."

With their plight, the Christian refugees in Jordan see a bleak future ahead of them, according to Father Noor.

"There is no hope among the people. They believe the world has abandoned them and are leaving them to die," he said.