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First Iraqi Refugees Arrive in Germany

8:38 PM, Mar 20, 2009 • By ULF GARTZKE
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A first group of 122 Iraqi refugees arrived in Germany on Thursday this week. The government in Berlin -- which will accept a total of 2,500 Iraqi refugees in the coming weeks and months -- will provide all of them with long-term residency papers, language courses, housing, and work permits. The other 26 EU member states combined will accept another 7,500 Iraqi refugees under the terms of a deal arranged by Germany between the European Union and the United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees. Due to strong political lobbying by Germany's ruling conservative CDU/CSU parties, the resettlement program is especially targeted at Iraq's religious minorities, which are clearly among the most vulnerable refugees groups:

Many of the families are Christians for whom living in Iraq has become extremely dangerous. Churches have been bombed, bishops murdered and anyone wearing a cross can quickly become a target. The Christians are too small a minority in the Muslim country to protect themselves. Of the first refugees to arrive in Germany on Thursday, about 60 percent were Christian and 15 percent Muslim, as well as 15 percent Mandaean.

To be sure, this Iraqi refugee resettlement program is a major first step in the right direction. Ultimately, however, it is just a drop in the ocean as hundreds of thousands of Iraqi refugees (many of them Christians) remain stranded in neighboring countries such as Syria and Jordan under terrible conditions.