0.4% of Syrian Refugees Admitted to U.S. Since ISIL Attacks in Paris Are Christian

By Patrick Goodenough | March 14, 2016 | 4:20 AM EDT

Syrian refugees at the Zaatari camp in Jordan. (Photo: UNHCR/S. Malkawi)

(CNSNews.com) – Out of 776 Syrian refugees admitted into the United States since the Islamic State of Iraq and Syria (ISIS/ISIL) carried out terrorist attacks in Paris last November, three are Christians – 0.4 percent of the total.

Aside from the three Christians – one Orthodox, one Greek Orthodox, and one with no denomination given in State Department Refugee Processing Center data – and one other refugee identified as “other religion,” the rest are Muslims.

They comprise 759 Sunni Muslims (97.8 percent), three Shi’ites (0.4 percent), and ten others identified as simply “Moslems.”

Of the 776 refugees from Syria admitted since Nov. 13, 207 (26.6 percent) are men between the ages of 14 and 50, another 177 (22.8 percent) are women aged 14-50, and 347 (44.7 percent) are children aged under 14 – 183 boys and 164 girls.

President Obama pledged last fall to bring 10,000 refugees fleeing the Syrian conflict during the course of fiscal year 2016.

But the plan ran into strong opposition in Congress and some state capitals after the deadly ISIS attack in the French capital deepened concerns about the terrorist group subverting refugee admission programs to insert members into Western countries to plan and carry out attacks. (Two of the Paris attackers had been carrying fake Syrian passports.)

A poll of American public opinion conducted days after the ISIS attack found 53 percent of respondents opposed the plan to resettlement the 10,000 Syrians. Another 28 percent said Obama should go ahead with the move, “without religious screening” while a further 11 percent called for only Christian refugees from Syria to be resettled in the U.S.

The pledged 10,000 for FY2016 have been slow in arriving so far. With the fiscal year now almost halfway through, 1,067 Syrian refugees have been admitted – just over one-tenth of the promised total for the 12-month period that began on Oct. 1.

Of those 1,067 admitted Syrian refugees, 1,045 (97.9 percent) are Sunni Muslims and eight (0.7 percent) are Christians – three Catholics, two Orthodox, one Greek Orthodox and two with no denomination supplied.

The Sunni/Christian ratio of Syrian refugees admitted into the U.S. since the conflict began five years ago this week – a total of 2,940 – is 2,764 Sunnis to 56 Christians, or 94 percent to 1.9 percent.

By contrast, around 74 percent of the Syrian population were Sunni Muslims at the start of the civil war, while Christians accounted for an estimated 10 percent. The European Parliament estimates that more than 700,000 Christians have fled the violence in their homeland since then. 

Of the 2,940 total resettled since March 2011, 801 (27.2 percent) are men between the ages of 14 and 50, and 1,284 (43.6 percent) are children under 14.

U.S. European Command commander Gen. Philip Breedlove told the Senate Armed Services Committee early this month that terrorists, returning foreign fighters and criminals are now “clearly a daily part of the refugee flow” into Europe.

Last month Director of National Intelligence James Clapper told the same committee that ISIS “is taking advantage of the torrent of migrants to insert operatives into that flow.”

He added that the terrorist groups has also has become “pretty skilled at [acquiring] phony passports, so they can travel ostensibly as legitimate travelers as well.”

Patrick Goodenough
Patrick Goodenough
Spencer Journalism Fellow

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