Dozens of Iraqi Christian refugees in Lebanon protested outside the U.N. building in Downtown Beirut Monday, calling for faster resettlement abroad. Between 150 and 200 demonstrators gathered outside the U.N. ESCWA headquarters in the Lebanese capital carrying placards that read, “the future of our children is wasted” and “our only demand is to [go] to countries that respect humans,” among others.
Thousands of Iraqis have fled the ongoing violence in their home country and have come to Lebanon. Many are from the Iraqi Christian minority seeking religiously diverse Lebanon in the wake of Daesh’s (ISIS) invasion of Christian areas in northern Iraq.
Protesters held placards highlighting their vulnerability as religious minorities in areas under Daesh control. “We will not return to a country where we’re being oppressed because of our Christianity. We want stability in a country that respects us,” banners read.
The U.N. refugee agency UNHCR estimates that between 40,000 and 50,000 Iraqi refugees are currently in Lebanon, many seeking resettlement in a third country.
However, overseas refugee resettlement can take up to three years and must be handled by UNHCR, the agency’s public information officer Lisa Abou Khaled told The Daily Star. Only the U.S., Canada and Australia are currently accepting resettlement applications from UNHCR on behalf of Iraqi refugees.
“We understand the frustration of the refugees that are living in very difficult conditions ... we also understand that they may be frustrated that they can’t apply themselves,” Abou Khaled said.
“Unfortunately, we work with very limited quotas and globally only 1 percent of the refugee population is resettled. We’re hoping to reach much more than that, especially for refugees in Lebanon ... many of whom are very vulnerable regardless of their country of origin and religious background.”
Last year, the U.S. set a quota to take in 2,500 refugees of all nationalities living in Lebanon. In recent weeks, U.S. President Donald Trump signed an executive order that put a hold on the country’s refugee resettlement program.
However, a U.S. federal court temporarily suspended the order, which will likely be appealed in a major trial at the country’s Supreme Court.