Written questions reveal what is known and not known

Questions answered on asylum, anti-Semitism and refugees in Iraq highlighted some interesting gaps in government information:

  • it is not known how many people have claimed asylum on the grounds of religious persecution
  • there is no central record of how often issues of persecution and freedom of religion or belief are raised with foreign governments
  • the breakdown of the ethnic or religious identity of refugees being assisted in Iraq is not known

The relevant Hansard records for 20 October are as follows:

Andrew Rosindell (Romford) (Con): To ask the Secretary of State for the Home Department, how many defined Christians entering the UK from Iraq and Syria have claimed asylum on the grounds of religious persecution in each year since 2012.

Minister of State (Security and Immigration) James Brokenshire (Old Bexley and Sidcup) (Con): Information on the basis of claim for asylum is not centrally recorded, and the information requested in the Hon. Member’s question could only be obtained through a manual search of individual case files. This would exceed the cost limit.

John Mann (Bassetlaw) (Lab): To ask the Secretary of State for Foreign and Commonwealth Affairs, how many times he or Ministers in his Department have raised concerns about anti-Semitism with their counterparts in (a) France, (b) Germany, (c) Holland, (d) Belgium, (e) Poland, (f) Australia, (g) the US and (h) Ireland since 2010.

Minister of State (Foreign and Commonwealth Office) David Lidington MP (Aylesbury) (Con): We are concerned about all instances of anti-Semitism, and regularly raise this issue with a number of countries, including those referred to in the Honorable Member’s question, though we do not hold a central record of every time we have done so. Our Embassies and High Commissions monitor cases of anti-Semitism and raise them with their host governments.

Anti-Semitism (and particularly Holocaust denial and denigration) are regularly discussed during meetings of the International Holocaust Remembrance Alliance (IHRA) in a dedicated Committee, and as a formal agenda item during the plenary meetings held twice a year. The UK Envoy for Post-Holocaust Issues, Sir Andrew Burns, leads an active UK delegation in these discussions. All the states to which your question refers are members of IHRA, with the exception of Australia.

The Foreign and Commonwealth Office also works very closely with the UK Member of the European Commission against Racism and Intolerance (ECRI), who provides expert advice on tackling anti-Semitism to the British Government and internationally.
The British Government will be represented at a senior level at the tenth anniversary of the Organization for Security and Cooperation in Europe (OSCE) Conference and Declaration on Anti-Semitism, being held in Berlin on 13 November 2014.

Lord Alton of Liverpool (CB): To ask Her Majesty’s Government what progress has been made so far by the International Humanitarian Partnership with establishing the proposed three camps, each to house 15,000 persons, for refugees who have fled from the fighting in Iraq; how that progress compares with the anticipated schedule; how many refugees are believed to be in need of shelter; which ethnic or religious groups are being assisted in those camps by the International Humanitarian Partnership; and what assessment they have made of what is likely to happen to those who are not provided for by those camps.

Lord’s Spokesperson on International Development, Baroness Northover (LD): The International Humanitarian Partnership (IHP) is building one camp in Shekhan which will provide shelter for up to 6,000 people. Camp construction is on schedule and should be ready to provide shelter by mid-November. The IHP was initially requested by UNHCR to build three of the sixteen camps that will provide shelter to those who have been displaced by the conflict in Northern Iraq. This proposal has now changed and the Kurdistan Regional Government (KRG) has taken charge of building the two other camps.

The Kurdistan Region of Iraq (KR-I) has received 860,000 displaced persons in successive waves. Of these, it is estimated that approximately 390,000 are in need of shelter. Of the £23 million that DFID has provided in response to the crisis, £17.5 million is funding United Nations (UN) agencies and NGO (Non-Government Organisation) partners to provide shelter, WASH (Water, Sanitation and Hygiene) and protection services. We continue to respond to the crisis on the basis of needs although we recognise that many of those who are receiving assistance belong to religious or ethnic religious groups that have fled persecution.