Europe

Syria conflict: Belgium rescues 200 Aleppo Christians

  • 8 July 2015
  • From the section Europe
Building in rubble in Qadi Askar district of Aleppo (7 July)
Image caption Before the war, Aleppo had one of the biggest Christian communities in the Middle East

Some 240 people, mainly Christians, have been brought out of Syria's second city of Aleppo and taken to Belgium, the government in Brussels says.

All the families had fled their homes and were at risk of repeated human rights abuse, a spokesman told the BBC.

Civil society groups helped take the families to safety in Lebanon.

Aleppo has been devastated by three years of fierce fighting between Syrian government forces, rebels and jihadist militants.

Before the war, it had a Christian population of around 160,000, one of the biggest in the Middle East.

The refugees, who included Yazidis as well as Christians, were moved out along the only open road from Aleppo to the Lebanese border.

The operation took place over two months and amid great secrecy. Belgium is one of several European countries that have come under pressure to help Christians and other religious minorities in Syria threatened with persecution.

"We did it via civil society organisations which could get them out of there," a foreign ministry spokesman said.

Few other details have been revealed, but the spokesman said some of the families had connections with people already in Belgium.

They were met on the Lebanese border by representatives from the Belgian embassy in Beirut with the help of the NGOs and have now all arrived in Belgium.

The families are now expected to be granted asylum in Belgium.

Belgium has until now only offered asylum to Syrian refugees through the United Nations, national media report.

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