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Christians blocked from seeking asylum after fleeing persecution from camps in Greek Isles

(Reuters/Giorgos Moutafis)A migrant who will be returned to Turkey holds a placard during a demonstration inside the Moria registration centre on the Greek island of Lesbos, April 5, 2016.

Christian refugees were reportedly prevented from seeking asylum on the Greek mainland after they fled from camps in the Greek Isles due to persecution at the hands of Muslim migrants.

The British Pakistani Christian Association (BPCA) recently called on the Greek government to change a policy that prevents homeless Christian refugees, who fled from the Moria refugee camp on the Greek island of Lesbos due to persecution, from being able to apply for asylum.

BPCA President Wilson Chowdhry told The Christian Post that he was informed that Greek authorities have put in place a "geographical restriction" that effectively blocks asylum seekers, who fled from one of the camps on the Greek islands, from being able to apply for asylum in mainland Greece without having to return to the very camp where they experienced persecution.

He explained that the authorities only made an exception for asylum seekers with severe health conditions.

"I would like to bring to your attention several reports of persecution that have been raised with the British Pakistani Christian Association, relating to persecution of Christians within the Muslim-majority ... Moria Camp," Chowdhry wrote in an email to Dimitris Caramitsos, the Greek ambassador to the U.K.

"Christians are being prevented from holding church services, worshiping and praying by their Muslim neighbors. Moreover, reports of tents being burned down, violence, bullying, harassment and severe threats paint a very bleak picture of the quality of life for Christians caught up within the camp," he added.

Chowdhry said that the failure to assess asylum seekers leaves them with no status, which prevents them from receiving statutory assistance from the Greek government and help from UNHCR.

Haroon Maqbool, a Pakistani who arrived in Lesbos in 2016 with his two children, was not able to complete his asylum application before he escaped the camp and the island.

"Haroon became bullied straight away and all the Christians left the camp ... and escaped by ship rather than be harrassed and bullied everyday," Chowdhry said.

Magbool has been living illegally in the mainland where he is at risk of being arrested for overstaying his visa. Even though it has been nine months since he fled the camp in Lesbos, the policy has prevented him from completing his asylum application to stay legally in the mainland.

According to Chowdhry, the UNHCR is compiling a list of cases like Maqbool's where refugees are too afraid to return to the camps in the Greek isles to complete their asylum applications.

The BPCA is providing support to as many as seven Pakistani Christian asylum seekers who were found homeless in the Greek mainland by another charity. Chowdhry's group is accepting online donations that will provide much-needed aid to homeless Christian refugees like Maqbool in Greece.

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