A cross-party group of MPs has the opinion that many refugees from Yazidi community, a minority Iraqi group persecuted by Islamic State, satisfy the “vulnerability criteria” of Syrian refugees due to the sexual violence they have experienced. The Yazidis are an ethnically Kurdish religious community or an ethno-religious group indigenous to northern Mesopotamia who is strictly endogamous. Endogamy is the practice of marrying within a specific ethnic group, class, or social group, rejecting others on such a basis as being unsuitable for marriage or for other close personal relationships. Their religion is linked to ancient Mesopotamian religions and combines aspects of Zoroastrianism, Islam, Christianity and Judaism.
In a letter to the Home Secretary, Amber Rudd, and Secretary of State for International Development, Priti Patel, MPs warned that the needs of those refugees are at risk of being forgotten amid the humanitarian crisis caused by the military offensive in Mosul.
“We urgently call for the UK Government departments to work together to determine how they can both provide Yazidis and other vulnerable religious minorities with adequate psychiatric support on the ground … and to specifically consider the scheme of resettlement that two regions of Germany have offered to provide the specialist care these Yazidi women and girls need,” the letter said.
The UK has a “Vulnerable persons resettlement scheme” (VPRS), which allows for 20,000 Syrians from neighbor countries to enter Britain by 2020. MPs from the all-party parliamentary group for international freedom of religion or belief said that Britain “fails to account for the systematic persecution” of Yazidis, 90% of whom are Iraqi.
The UN has condemned the murder, rape, torture and sexual slavery of Yazidis in Syria and Iraq, perpetrated by Isis, as genocide.
A second letter, sent to Britain’s home secretary by the chairman of the international development committee, states: “Iraq's ethnic and religious minorities have been targeted by Isis (its Arabic language acronym is Daesh) and have been living under a deadly campaign since 2014. Many thousands have been murdered, maimed, raped or abducted, with large numbers of women and girls forced into marriage or sexual enslavement. This has left many minority communities on the verge of disappearance in Iraq. For example, the Christian population, which before 2003 numbered as many as 1.4 million, had fallen to 350,000 by early 2014 and since the Daesh advance is now estimated as fewer than 250,000.”
Many refugees from Yazidi and Christian communities who, having fled the Iraq conflict, have been unable to access the UK’s resettlement program. Thousands of Yazidis are believed to be living in and around UN camps in Turkey and Greece, according to MPs.
A Home Office spokesperson said that while the VPRS was open only to Syrian nationals, Iraqi refugees may qualify for other resettlement schemes. The current VPRS is open to Syrian refugees registered in Jordan, Lebanon, Iraq, Egypt and Turkey. “There are several UK resettlement programs which Iraqi refugees may qualify for, such as Gateway, Mandate and the Vulnerable Children’s Resettlement Scheme,” said a Home Office spokesperson.
The Gateway Protection Programme is a scheme operated by the British government in partnership with the United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees (UNHCR) and co-funded by the European Union (EU), offering a legal route for a quota of UNHCR-identified refugees to be resettled in the United Kingdom. The Gateway Protection Programme initially had a quota of 500 refugees per year, which was later increased to 750, but the actual number of refugees resettled in most years has been fewer than the quota permitted. The Mandate scheme, also open to any nationality, is for people recognized as refugees by the UN High Commissioner for Refugees who also have a close family member in Britain.
The top five countries for resettling refugees in 2015 were the US (82,491), Canada (22,886), Australia (9,321), Norway (3,803) and the UK (3,622).
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