Germany turning away more Yazidi refugees

Germany is taking in fewer and fewer Yazidi refugees, according to a German newspaper report. The religious minority was terrorized by the "Islamic State" during the militant group's campaign in Iraq and Syria.

Germany approved about 60 percent of Yazidi asylum applications in 2018, the Neue Osnabrücker Zeitung newspaper reported on Saturday.

That amounts to about 5,350 refugees — a significant drop from the previous year, when 85 percent of Yazidi asylum-seekers, most of them from Iraq, made successful claims.

The figures from the Foreign Ministry were provided in response to an official request from the Left party.

Read moreWho are the Yazidis?

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Who are the Yazidis?

The Yazidis are a Kurdish-speaking minority with a unique monotheistic religion, who live mainly in Iraq and Syria. In 2014, their ancestral home, the Sinjar region of northern Iraq, was seized by "Islamic State" (IS) militants. Hundreds of thousands of Yazidis were displaced. The UN estimated that around 5,000 Yazidi men were murdered, while 7,000 women were abducted and enslaved.

Many Yazidi refugees have ended up in Armenia, Georgia and Russia. About 150,000 live in Germany — the largest community of Yazidis in exile.

The Yazidi woman and former IS prisoner Nadia Murad received the Nobel Peace Prize in 2018 for her campaign to end the use of sexual violence as a weapon of war.

 Read moreIraq's Yazidis mourn the loss of their homeland 

The plight of the Yazidi minority in Iraq

The Yazidis: A history of persecution

For hundreds of years, the Yazidi community has been persecuted for its religious views, an amalgamation of Zoroastrianism, Christianity and Islam. Throughout their history, they have been killed, forced to convert to other religions and even taken as slaves. While the Kurdish-speaking minority community in northern Iraq had been attacked before, 2014 marked a tragic turning point in history.

The plight of the Yazidi minority in Iraq


In 2014, the "Islamic State" militant group launched a blitzkrieg campaign across Iraq and Syria, capturing large swathes of territory and laying waste to areas such as Mount Sinjar, the ancestral homeland of the Yazidis. More than 5,000 people were killed and up to 10,000 kidnapped, many of them children. The event was described by the UN as a genocide.

The plight of the Yazidi minority in Iraq


The "Islamic State" abducted hundreds of girls and women and enslaved them in the wake of the assault. The militant group created a database of all the women, including pictures of them, to document who bought them and to ensure they do not escape. While dozens of women were able to escape, hundreds more remain missing.

The plight of the Yazidi minority in Iraq


Thousands of men, women and children remain missing. Critics have accused Iraqi authorities of doing little to find those who were abducted after Baghdad declared military victory over the militant group in December 2017. Family members fear that up to 3,000 Yazidis will remain indefinitely unaccounted for.

The plight of the Yazidi minority in Iraq


In the wake of the "Islamic State" militant group's systematic assault on the Yazidis, many have fled to neighboring countries, Europe and beyond. While some families have found refuge outside their country, others have been forced to stay in camps in Iraqi Kurdistan. Although the UN is helping to rebuild houses in their ancestral homeland, many still believe IS poses a threat to their existence.

Why the decline in recognition?

The number of successful Yazidi asylum claims in Germany has been falling since 2015, when 97 percent of cases were approved. In 2016, the success rate was 95 percent.

One factor affecting their chances of receiving asylum is the fact that Yazidis are increasingly traveling to Germany from countries that are considered safe, such as Georgia, Russia and Turkey. Another reason cited by the Neue Osnabrücker Zeitung is that German authorities no longer consider the Kurdish autonomous region of northern Iraq to be an unsafe place for Yazidis.

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Left party lawmaker Ulla Jelpke said she suspects there is also a link between the drop in recognition and last year's scandal at the Bremen branch of Germany's Federal Office of Migration and Refugees (BAMF). The office came under fire after reports that staff were taking bribes from asylum-seekers in exchange for illegally approving claims between 2013 and 2016. Many of those decisions benefited Yazidis, who at the time were being persecuted by IS.

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