‘EU should not goad Iraqi Christians to leave’

tarapour200902180200044061.jpgWolfgang Schaeuble
An Iraqi official has criticized the German interior minister for encouraging European countries to offer refugee status to members of the Iraqi Christian community.

In April 2008, German Interior Minister Wolfgang Schaeuble made an urgent request to European countries to offer refuge to Iraq’s Christians. However, the European Union rejected the proposal, saying asylum cannot be offered on religious grounds.

Asghar al-Moussawi, a deputy minister in charge of refugees and displaced persons, said that the Iraqi government is opposed to this type of invitation.

Such a move is totally unjustified, “especially as the security situation in Iraq is stable. It is not reasonable that Iraqis leave their country,” he said as German Foreign Minister Frank-Walter Steinmeier conducted meetings with high-ranking Iraqi officials.

Al-Moussawi said that Iraq needs all of its people to stay to help rebuild the country. “To encourage a group of any particular faith to leave the country is against international law, and causes more harm than benefit to those people,” AFP quoted him as saying.

According to Christian leaders, Iraq had a Christian population of 800,000 before the 2003 US-led invasion, 250,000 of whom have left the country.