Syrian Refugees Admitted to U.S. More Than Doubled in June; 0.3 Percent Were Christians

Patrick Goodenough | July 5, 2016 | 4:26am EDT
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The U.S. government determined in March that abuses carried out by ISIS against Christians and other minorities in areas under its control constitute genocide. (Photo courtesy of Open Doors USA)

( – The “surge” of Syrian refugee admissions first announced by the State Department last spring hit a new peak during June – 2,381 refugees, or more than double the number permitted to resettle in the United States in May.

Of them, eight (0.3 percent) are Christians and 2,364 (99.2 percent) are Sunni Muslims. The remainder comprise eight other Muslims, and one refugee giving no religious affiliation, according to State Department Refugee Processing Center data.

In comparison, 1,069 Syrian refugees were admitted during May, of whom two were Christians and 1,060 were Sunnis. The other seven were other Muslims.

With the more than doubling of the number of admissions between May and June, the administration now looks, after a sluggish start, to be on track to meet President Obama’s target of 10,000 Syrian refugee admissions during fiscal year 2016.


As of the end of June – and the number did not change on Friday, July 1 – the total number of Syrian refugees allowed to resettle in the U.S. stands at 5,186. With three months of FY 2016 to go, the administration will need to admit an average of 1,604 Syrian refugees each month in July, August and September, to hit the target.

Of the 5,186 refugees admitted to date in FY 2016, 20 (0.38 percent) are Christians – comprising 12 described simply as “Christian,” five Catholics, two Orthodox and one Greek Orthodox.

Another ten (0.19 percent) are members of the Yazidi minority and 17 (0.32 percent) are Shi’a.

Other non-Sunnis among the 5,186 total admitted so far this fiscal year are 38 other Muslims, one refugee with “no religion” and one with “other religion.”

Sunnis make up the vast majority of the refugees admitted to date – 5,099 (98.3 percent) of the 5,186.

The proportion of Syrian refugees admitted this year who are Christians – 0.38 percent – is much smaller than the roughly 10 percent of pre-war Syrians who were Christian.

Refugee advocacy groups say this anomaly is at least partly the result of the fact Christians among the fleeing Syrians are loathe to enter U.N. camps in surrounding countries for fear of their safety – something the U.N. refugee agency itself concedes is happening.

Because the U.N. refers applicants at the beginning of the process of seeking refugee status in the U.S., this may mean fewer Christians are referred in the first place.

Christians, Yazidis and Shi’a have been specifically targeted by the Sunni jihadists of the Islamic State of Iraq and Syria (ISIS/ISIL), in what the U.S. government has determined is a campaign of genocide.

Meanwhile, millions of members of Syria’s Sunni majority have fled the civil war, whether driven by fear of ISIS or other Sunni rebel groups, the Assad regime (dominated by the adherents of an offshoot of Shi’a Islam), or by violence and deprivation in general.

According to the CIA World Factbook, when the civil war began in early 2011 Sunni Muslims accounted for an estimated 74 percent of the Syrian population and Christians for an estimated 10 percent.


Over the period of the conflict, the U.S. has admitted a total of 7,059 Syrian refugees, of whom 6,818 (96.5 percent) are Sunnis and 68 (0.96 percent) are Christians.

The remainder of the 7,059 are heterodox Muslims (98), Shi’a (30), Yazidi (11), Jehovah’s Witnesses (8), Zoroastrians (6), Baha’i (2), “no religion” (8), “other religion” (7) and atheists (3).

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