On 27 March 2016, we wrote to Dr Tania Mathias, MP for Twickenham, as follows: "We've been concerned at the plight of all middle eastern refugees, and particularly that of Christians. May we ask you kindly to ask the government what steps it is taking to look after Christian refugees, not least because they are less likely to be in the camps? Is the government sending aid to them and, where it is helpful, allowing them to come here?"
On 21 April, Dr Mathias replied thus: "As you will be aware, the UK has a proud record of offering sanctuary to those who need it, and the Government remains committed to working to improve its ability to identify and respond to all vulnerable people in the asylum system. I can also assure you that each claim for asylum is carefully considered and where it is found that individuals are in need of protection, asylum is given.
"In drawing up the criteria for refugees who will come to the UK from Syria, the Government will be looking at the people who are most vulnerable, and the Prime Minster has made clear that Yazidis, Christians and others - particularly children or women at risk of abuse - will all be in the scheme. The Government's policy is to look at the needs of individual refugees and it does not specifically discriminate on the basis of faith in determining whether to take in refugees with particular beliefs, not least because this is a very difficult thing to determine. Nevertheless, Christians have been appallingly treated in the Middle East, especially by Daesh, and so we clearly do need to ensure that we take in many more Christians as part of the Government's resettlement programme for vulnerable Syrians, as well as in the existing asylum procedures. Similarly, the £2bn the Government is committed to spending in Syria will not just be on the camps – though these are obviously important – but specifically targeted towards those areas and communities that most need it, including Christians."
On 30 April, we wrote: "Renewed thanks for yours below. I reported what you said to a grateful meeting of ministers and layfolk this past week. You mention "many more Christians". Is there a way of knowing how many are presently being helped and how that number might be increased? I am also mandated to thank you for voting to take in the child refugees."
On 20 May, Dr Mathias replied: "Thank you for your kind email. I am afraid that I am unaware of any specific numbers of Christian refugees. I know from own experience as a refugee worker that it can often be very difficult to identify which people fall into a given group. As I said in my previous email, the Government is working with the UN to identify those most at risk, and this clearly includes the Christian communities of Syria and Iraq who have been specifically targeted by Daesh. As the Government is working with the existing UN refugee camps in the region, work needs to be done to ensure that Christians are able and willing to enter those camps in the first place. Our existing asylum policy takes into account if someone has been persecuted for religious reasons, so help can be given via that means as well.
"I am encouraged that the Government has now listened to the concerns raised by me and my colleagues and will be taking in unaccompanied child refugees from Europe. It will work with local authorities to determine how best to support this vulnerable group."