French Immigration Minister Eric Besson defended his government’s acceptance of 35 Iraqi Christians who survived a deadly attack on the church they were worshipping in Baghdad 31 October. Our concern “is not to make all the Christians of the Middle East and of Iraq come here”, he said 11 November on a visit to the reception centre where the Iraqis are staying. “France’s aim is to strengthen the protection of Christians in the Middle East and in Iraq to preserve communities which have been home to multiple faiths for centuries”, he said. Besson also said he expects another 100 Iraqis to come in the “next days or weeks” and that if they applied for asylum they would receive it.
Iraqi Prime Minister Nouri al-Maliki, visiting the site of the murderous attack this past Tuesday 9 November, said “The countries that have welcomed the victims… of this attack have done a noble thing, but that should not encourage emigration”, without naming France.
Some in France have pointed out the apparent hypocrisy in the French government’s expulsion of hundreds of Rom to Romania this summer. Others decry (Fre) a policy of “choosing your victims” and the dangers of playing into al-Qaeda’s hands (Fre) by singling out ethnic or religious minorities for special treatment. Al Qaeda in Iraq said after the attack on the church that Christians in Iraq were “legitimate targets” in its campaign.