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House of Lords written question HL830.

Question for Department for International Development

UIN HL830, tabled on 13 July 2017

Her Majesty's Government what assessment they have made of reports (1) that Christians and Yazidis who have been victims of genocide in Syria and Iraq do not use UN camps because of oppression and persecution that they have experienced within them, and (2) from Jordanian military officials that ISIS jihadis have infiltrated many such camps.

Answered on

20 July 2017

  • The UK Government recognises the specific risks faced by religious minorities in Iraq and Syria, including those who have suffered so horrifically at the hands of Daesh. We are aware of reports that fear of persecution or discrimination in camps may be deterring some people from using them, and are in close touch with our partners involved in the management of camps and the delivery of services within them, including UN agencies. They have clear guidelines, mechanisms and accountability frameworks in place to prevent discrimination by their own staff or those of their partners. DFID takes any allegations that these are not being applied effectively very seriously, and stands ready to follow up specific allegations with the partners concerned.
  • The security of the camps and all those living in them is the responsibility of the appropriate civil authorities (e.g. in Iraq, it lies with the Government of Iraq) and is monitored by independent humanitarian actors such as UNHCR. UK officials stand ready to report any specific allegations of persecution or violence against religious minorities within the camps to those authorities. The Government is concerned about Daesh infiltration inside camps. In Iraq the Iraqi authorities carry out screening of those entering camps in order to seek to prevent such infiltration. UN agencies have set up grievance mechanisms that allow any minority member to anonymously report abuse, persecution or discrimination; these can also be used to report on suspected extremist activity.
  • DFID’s funding for Iraq is targeted towards those who are most in need including vulnerable people from minority communities such as Yazidis and Christians. It is delivered in line with the 2017 Humanitarian Response Plan (HRP) for the whole of Iraq, which is based on comprehensive needs assessments carried out by a wide range of partners. The humanitarian principles of neutrality and impartiality aim to ensure that no one is excluded or discriminated against on the grounds of race, ethnicity, or religion, that the specific risks facing minorities are addressed and that assistance reaches those who need it most. In the difficult environments in Syria and Iraq, where access to vulnerable people is often very challenging especially as some actors such as Daesh and the Assad regime deliberately prevent humanitarian access, DFID regularly challenges our partners to demonstrate that they are doing all they can to meet the needs the most vulnerable people, including those from religious minorities. We welcome information from all sources to help us to hold them to account.
  • DFID is not aware of scheduled meetings in 2015 with Christian representatives in Iraq that officials did not attend, but DFID officials regularly meet with representatives of Iraqi Christian and Yezidi communities. DFID Ministers have also met representatives of these communities.
  • DFID has received Dr Russell Blacker’s correspondence and has responded suggesting a meeting is organised with Dr Blacker, Lord Bates and Mr Burt to discuss together.