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Iraqi Christians find refuge in France

media French Foreign Minister Laurent Fabius. REUTERS/Thaier al-Sudani

Some 40 Iraqi Christians were flown into Paris on Thursday after having fled Islamic extremists rampaging through large swaths of northern Iraq. French authorities have indicated that up to a few thousand more members of this community could be granted asylum.

French Foreign Minister Laurent Fabius personally welcomed them at a Paris airport, saying that their lives in Iraq were in danger.

“We must first fight and resist to overcome this opponent but there are extreme cases where people can be welcomed in France or other countries,” Fabius said on RMC and BFM TV. “It is several hundred, maybe a few thousand in our case.”

Fabius said the refugees were given priority because they had some connection with France, including family some of them haven’t seen for over a decade.

Thousands of Christians and other minorities have fled northern Iraq as heavily armed fighters with the Islamic State try to create a self-proclaimed caliphate.

The militants have threatened Christian families that they would be executed, forced to leave or convert to Islam.

Over the past month, the majority of Christian communities – which date back almost 2,000 years – have seen hundreds of thousands people flee, many to the semiautonomous Kurdish region.

Some 8,000 Iraqi Christians have applied for visas to France in the Kurdish city of Erbil since France said last month it would offer them asylum from Islamic State militants.

The refugees on Thursday were flown aboard a cargo planet hat had just brought 21 tonnes of humanitarian aide to Erbil, where there are some 600,000 internally displaced refugees.


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