Saturday, March 22, 2008

France to grant asylum to Iraqi Christians

France has announced that it will be granting asylum to 500 Iraqi Christians. The announcement has created controversy both in and outside of Iraq. Many Muslims have claimed that this move by France is blatant discrimination against Muslims. Both Muslims and Christians have been targets for abductions and murders on the basis of their religious beliefs but France feels as though Christians are having a particularly difficult time and that the situation continues to worsen. Pierre Henry, head of the France Terre d'Asile organization said, "It is risky showing preference to refugees on the strength of their religion." Is France making the right decision?


sara said...

I will concede that there is the question of criticizing political policy that grants asylum to those who need it. Should we be condemning the French policy as racist when in the end 500 people are being granted asylum?? - truly the policy would be more equal if no one were granted asylum. However, that said, it is unfortunate that the article did not address that the charge of discrimination against Muslims is not new to the French political scene, because I believe it provides not only context but is integral to this discussion. There has been a history of discrimination against Muslims in France, specifically Muslims who moved from formerly French colonies during and after decolonization through the present day. Asylum policy affects not only those who are granted asylum and those who are not, but also those in the country implementing the policy. Is this not the French government putting out a message to both Iraqis and Frenchmen alike that they are privileging the needs of oppressed Christians over oppressed Muslims?
Further, I am curious (and maybe you know Dr. D?) insofar as French asylum law, must applicants prove that they are individually targeted? Or is this more analogous to resettlement granted to refugees?

Dr. D said...

Hi Sara, good points. Like most other countries, if an individual is applying for asylum, they must prove personal persecution. However, it seems in this case, the 500 Iraqi Christians are being granted asylum as already defined refugees -- in other words, they have already been defined as refugees and therefore do not have to go through the process in France.

Anonymous said...

Just to play devil's advocate a little- I wonder how many Muslims would choose to seek asylum in France, knowing about the level of persecution or discrimination they would encounter there. Perhaps the French officials who made the decision to admit Christian refugees were attempting to prevent a potential upset in their own country. Although, I do not necessarily agree with the decision to admit refugees based on religious preference, there are more issues at play which French officials must consider during the decision-making process and that we, as outsiders, may not initially realize.

Scuba Steve said...

This issue reminds me about something I'm researching for an ethics paper. If the act of granting asylum to the Iraqi Christians is, in itself, a good thing (i.e., if they deserve it), does it really *matter* if the Iraqi Muslims are being discriminated against? That aspect takes nothing away from the desert of the Iraqi Christians... but it does seem to corrupt the system (if indeed deserving Muslims are being denied asylum under the same conditions). If you believe that that line of thinking is correct... then you would have to assert that it is (perhaps) unethical to discriminate against the Muslims, but it is entirely just to let the deserving Christians in to France. It is a critique of the system you are offering.

As sara posted... it in fact would be more equal if asylum worked on an all-or-none principal. So the question is: are the French doing the right thing by increasing utility of the Iraqi Christians by 500+, irrespective of what's going on with the Muslims? Is that not, in fact, better than having a utility of zero, whereby things are actually more "equal"?