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House of Lords written question HL852.

Question for Department for International Development

UIN HL852, tabled on 17 July 2017

Her Majesty's Government, in the light of the freedom of information response issued by the Department for International Development (DfID) on 13 March which stated that “whoever needs our help the most gets it first”, what assessment they have made of the needs of religious minorities in Northern Iraq and Syria; whether those minorities fall within the definition of humanitarian assistance applied by UN agencies; what assessment they have made of claims by NGOs that religious identity is the basis for human rights abuses including abduction and murder; what data DfID collect about the ethnic and religious diversity of those receiving its aid in those regions; and if such data is not collected, why not.

Answered on

25 July 2017

The UK Government recognises the specific risks such as abduction and murder faced by religious minorities in Iraq and Syria, including those who have suffered so horrifically at the hands of Daesh, and is deeply concerned by reports of human rights abuses motivated by religious or ethnic identity.

All people in need, from any community, irrespective of religious affiliation, are eligible for humanitarian assistance. DFID’s humanitarian implementing partners, including the UN, consider a wide range of issues when assessing an individual’s vulnerability such as the impact of physical or mental disabilities, income, age, missing family members, and whether individuals are already receiving assistance from other sources.

The organisations through which we channel our support do not identify or record beneficiaries by their religion. The reason for this is because there is a risk that collecting information about the ethnicity or religion of people receiving aid could be obtained by others, including extremist groups, and used to persecute them.

We do not therefore hold information on how much UK-funded support is channelled to Yezidis and Christians either inside or outside camps. This year the UK will provide £40 million for urgent humanitarian assistance in Iraq and £4 million for the UN’s Funding Facility for Immediate Stabilisation (FFIS) to help rebuild communities affected by Daesh, including for minority communities in newly liberated areas in Iraq. The UK is also providing £500 million to support people, including refugees and internally displaced Syrians, affected by the Syria crisis in 2017. DFID does not fund the Bishops Emergency Committee.

The Nineveh Reconstruction Committee comprised of Church representatives has not contacted the UK Government or submitted a proposal for UK support for the construction of homes on the Nineveh Plains.

The UK is funding the UN’s Funding Facility for Immediate Stabilisation (FFIS), which is supporting 152 projects in mainly Christian communities in the Ninewa Plains and 70 projects in Yezidi communities in Sinjar, Rabia and Sinuni.

UN agencies are obliged to operate by the humanitarian principles of neutrality and impartiality which aim to ensure that no one is excluded or discriminated against on the grounds of race, ethnicity, or religion; and to also ensure that the specific risks facing minorities are addressed and that assistance reaches those who need it most. DFID considers reports from a wide range of sources, including field visits by UK officials where these are possible, to assess the effectiveness of UN operations and their compliance with humanitarian principles. The UN carries out vital work in both Syria and Iraq, and UN staff frequently risk their lives to deliver assistance to people in need, including to areas where Daesh or the Assad regime seek to prevent aid being delivered.