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UK refugee resettlement doesn’t discriminate against Christians


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In R (HNA) v Secretary of State for the Home Department [2021] EWHC 2100 (Admin), the High Court has rejected an argument that the UK’s refugee resettlement efforts discriminate against Christians in the Middle East. 

The claimant HNA is a former Muslim convert to Christianity who fled Syria for Lebanon in 2014. His challenge concerned the now closed Vulnerable Persons Resettlement Scheme, but also sought an order for its replacement (the consolidated UK Resettlement Scheme) to include a quota for religious minorities. To achieve this he would have had to establish that there was discrimination against such minorites that needed to be fixed, which proposition the High Court rejected.

Mr Justice Jacobs noted that the bare statistics appearing to show under-representation of Christians among resettled Syrians were of little assistance. That was because the number of Christians in Syria is practically unknowable: there has been no official census since 1960, and serious population unheaval in recent years.

Refugees are selected for resettlement in the UK exclusively by staff at the UN Refugee Agency, many of whom are locally recruited Muslims. HNA complained of being mocked, abused and threatened by those very staff on account of his faith, and tried to build an account of systemic discrimination on this foundation. But the judge found that this “uncorroborated account of mistreatment on a particular occasion” was not enough even assuming it to be accurate, and was unimpressed by evidence from other sources.

That said, the government has specifically mentioned Christians when discussing the new Resettlement Scheme.

Interested in refugee law? You might like Colin's book, imaginatively called "Refugee Law" and published by Bristol University Press.

Communicating important legal concepts in an approachable way, this is an essential guide for students, lawyers and non-specialists alike.

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CJ McKinney

CJ McKinney

CJ McKinney is a specialist on immigration law and policy. Formerly the editor of Free Movement, you will find a lot of articles by CJ here on this website! Twitter: @mckinneytweets.