Iraq refugees escape ‘living hell’ of life under Islamic State

First arrivals in Czech Republic express gratitude and relief

Two Czech government officials, a member of the European Parliament and the waiting media welcomed the first Iraqi arrivals in Barnabas Fund’s Operation Safe Havens project.

153 Iraqis are expected to arrive in four main groups over the next two months on refugee visas supplied especially by the government of the Czech Republic. British relief charity, Barnabas Fund, has covered the costs of their flights to the Czech Republic, in addition to supporting their first year costs of resettlement in partnership with Czech charity, Foundation Generation 21.

In moving scenes at Prague airport, Majid Rashid, one of the first 10 arrivals expressed relief: “For Christians, life is very hard in Iraq, we could describe it like living hell.”

He declared: “For us living in Iraq means giving your life and accepting death moment after moment.”

He expressed his hope for a new life for all 37 families who will be arriving in Prague over the coming days.

Barnabas Fund’s Chief Executive, Hendrik Storm, welcomed the refugees to their new home and thanked the Czech government and Czech partners for recognising the need facing Iraqi and Syrian Christians. He said: “The desperate plight of Christians in the Middle East is what has brought the Barnabas Fund, Foundation Generation 21 and the government of the Czech Republictogether in this initiative

“We pay tribute to the vision and bravery of the Czech government in recognising that Christians are uniquely targeted and abandoned by the international community.”

Foundation Generation 21 will be on the front line of providing care, counselling and support for refugees to resettle in the Czech Republic over the next year. Jan Talafant of the charity welcomed the refugees and praised the contribution of the British-based Barnabas Fund’s Operation Safe Havens in making the operation possible.

“From the very beginning we were telling the Czech government that we have a strong financial partner in Great Britain, Barnabas Fund. They had many questions about financing the project, so it was very helpful in the whole process of receiving agreement from the Czech government. Without you the project would not be possible.”

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