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Secretary of State Francken rescues Syrian Christians from the hell of Aleppo
With the support of the cabinet of Secretary of State for Asylum and Migration Theo Francken (N-VA), 244 Syrian Christians were secretly rescued from Syria and brought to safety in Belgium. “These people were living in the Syrian city of Aleppo on the front-line between the radical Islamic rebels on the one side and the government troops on the other side,” says Francken. “Their only escape route to Lebanon was in danger of being cut off. After consulting with national security, I decided to intervene.”
“Everyone is suffering from the civil war in Syria,” Francken realises, “but Christians are being persecuted specifically because of their faith and are therefore even more vulnerable. Before the civil war, approximately 160,000 Christians were living in Aleppo. Today, their numbers have dwindled to 50,000.” The Christian neighbourhoods are situated on the front-line between the government troops and the radical Islamic rebels, who persecute them because of their faith. Furthermore, they are being targeted by the moderate rebel groups of the opposition for being so-called supporters of the Syrian regime.
“The continued existence of their only escape route, towards Lebanon, is very uncertain,” Francken remarks. “On top of that, everything seems to indicate that a final offensive on Aleppo is nigh. If the Christian neighbourhoods become overrun by radical Islamic militias, death and slavery will be their fate.”
Victims of war
Just as in the case of resettlement, priority was given to the most vulnerable when selecting the 244 refugees: families with children, the sick and the elderly. They received a visa to come to Belgium, where they could seek asylum and go through the normal procedure. As with other Syrians, the Office of the Commissioner General for Refugees and Stateless Persons will grant them a protection status.