Only 3 Christians Among 651 Syrian Refugees Admitted to U.S. Since Paris Attacks

By Patrick Goodenough | February 29, 2016 | 4:17 AM EST

A demonstration in the Lebanese capital, Beirut, draws attention to the plight of Syrian Christians. (AP Photo/Hussein Malla, File)

(CNSNews.com) – The government has admitted 651 Syrian refugees into the United States since Islamic State of Iraq and Syria (ISIS/ISIL) terrorists attacked Paris last November, three of whom (0.46 percent) are Christians.

The three, all male, are a Greek Orthodox, an Orthodox adherent and one person described in data from the State Department Refugee Processing Center simply as “Christian.”

Muslims make up 647 of the 651 Syrian refugees--or 99 percent of the total.

634 of the refugees (or 97.3 percent) of the 651 Syrian refugees approved for resettlement since the Paris attacks are Sunni Muslims. The remainder include three Shi’ites, ten others described as Muslims but without any further details, and one refugee identified in Refugee Processing Center data as “other religion.”

Of the 651 Syrian refugees, 175 (26.8 percent) are men between the ages of 14 and 50, and 146 (22.4 percent) are women aged 14-50. Another 295 (45.3 percent) are children aged under 14, and 35 are men and women older than 50. Forty-four of the 651 are ethnic Kurds.

One hundred and thirty people were killed when ISIS terrorists carried out near-simultaneous attacks in the French capital on November 13.

The French government later confirmed that two of the attackers had been carrying fake Syrian passports, warning other European Union member-states that “some terrorists are trying to get into our countries and commit criminal acts by mixing in with the flow of migrants and refugees.”

Last December, House Homeland Security Committee chairman Rep. Michael McCaul (R-Texas) said the U.S. intelligence community “has identified already individuals tied to terrorist organizations in Syria that want to exploit and get into the United States through the refugee process.”

President Obama has pledged to take in 10,000 Syrian refugees during fiscal year 2016. Five months into the fiscal year, fewer than one-tenth of that number have been admitted.

Since FY2016 began on October 1, the State Department has admitted a total of 942 Syrian refugees, of whom eight (0.8 percent) are Christians and 920 (97.6 percent) are Sunnis. The eight Christians are three Catholics, two Orthodox, one Greek Orthodox, and two “Christians.”

Of the total 942 refugees admitted this fiscal year, 247 (26.2 percent) are males between the ages of 14 and 50, and 208 (22 percent) are females aged 14-50. Another 438 (46.4 percent) are children aged under 14, and 49 are men and women older than 50.

The Syrian crisis began after small anti-government protests in early 2011 were met with a harsh crackdown by the Assad regime, sparking a conflict that became a bloody and complex civil war. According to U.N. estimates well over 250,000 people have been killed and 12 million displaced.

Since March 2011, the U.S. has admitted a total of 2,815 Syrian refugees, of whom 56 (1.9 percent) are Christians and 2,639 (93.7 percent) are Sunni Muslims.

The remainder are other minorities, including Shi’ites, heterodox Muslims, Zoroastrians, Jehovah’s Witness, Baha’i and atheists.

In contrast to the Christian/Sunni ratio of 1.9 percent/93.7 percent, Christians accounted for an estimated 10 percent of the Syrian population and Sunni Muslims for an estimated 74 percent when the conflict began.

European church groups and government agencies estimate that more than 700,000 Christians have left Syria since the civil war began.

According to some groups working to help refugees, many of the Syrian Christians who have fled the fighting fear for their safety in U.N. refugee camps and do not register with the U.N. High Commissioner for Refugees (UNHCR), tending to stay instead with family or other co-religionists in neighboring countries such as Lebanon and Turkey.

Because the U.S. and other Western rely on UNHCR referrals at the early stages of processing applications for refugee status, Christians may be inadvertently disadvantaged.

The U.N. agency does say, however, that applicants do not have to live in a refugee camp to be registered as “persons of concern.”

Patrick Goodenough
Patrick Goodenough
Spencer Journalism Fellow

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