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Asylum call for fleeing Christians

Church of England bishops are appealing to the Government to grant Christians fleeing jihadists in Iraq asylum in the UK.

Thousands of Christians have fled the city of Mosul after militants from the Islamic State in Iraq and the Levant (Isis) threatened them with forced conversion or death.

Now a number of bishops have said the UK has a "moral duty" to take them in, because of its role in the 2003 invasion which was followed by years of instability in the country leading up to the current Islamist insurgency.

Around three-quarters of the one million Christians living in Iraq in 2003 are believed to have left because of sectarian violence, and the 60,000-strong Christian community in Mosul - one of the world's oldest - is thought to have fallen to 35,000 by the time of Isis's takeover in June. All are now thought to have fled.

The Bishop of Manchester, the Right Rev David Walker, told The Observer: "We would be failing to fulfil our obligations were we not to offer sanctuary. Having intervened so recently and extensively in Iraq, we have, even more than other countries, a moral duty in the UK.

"Given the vast amounts of money that we spent on the war in Iraq, the tiny cost of bringing some people fleeing for their lives to this country and allowing them to settle - and who, in due course, would be an asset to our society - would seem to be minuscule."

The Right Rev Dr John Inge, Bishop of Worcester, told the paper: "I would be very disturbed if the Government refused to do anything. The situation in Iraq is absolutely horrendous. It would sit very ill-at-ease with our values if nothing were to be offered. I am disappointed nothing has transpired so far."

And the Bishop of Leeds, the Right Rev Nick Baines, said: " The Government cannot remain silent and you cannot just issue words - you've got to put something behind that. If we can't offer sanctuary to these people, then who will? Not doing so would be tantamount to the betrayal of our moral and historical obligations."

A Home Office spokesman said: "The UK has a proud record of offering sanctuary to those who need it.

"Every claim for asylum is carefully considered on its individual merits."

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