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Immigration Court in Orlando, Florida Continues to Recognize Syrian Christians' Fear of Persecution

On July 28, 2014, the Immigration Court in Orlando, Florida, granted asylum relief to another Syrian national represented by Silvia Manzanero, Esq, after finding that he had a well-founded fear of persecution on account of his Christian faith.

Manzanero’s client had fled Syria after he was kidnapped by a group of armed individuals, who, after several verbal death threats, dragged him out of his placed of employment, blindfolded him, tied his hands behind his back, and drove him to an unknown location where he was kept by the captors for four days, tied to a chair, and given virtually no food or water. The captors continuously made derogatory comments about the Respondent’s Christian religion and clearly indicated that his religion was the reason for his kidnapping. . Although the Respondent reported his ordeal to the local police, he received no protection nor was the kidnapping investigated.

Upon acknowledging that acts of persecution of the Syrian Christian minority were thoroughly documented in the case, the Immigration Court found in favor of Manzanero’s client.

This decision came after the Immigration Court in Orlando granted asylum relief to another of David F. Vedder, P.A.’s clients, also a Syrian national of Christian faith represented by attorney Manzanero, on July 22, 2014.

These grants of relief are not surprising. The armed conflict that began with the pro-democracy demonstrations in March 2011 has thus far claimed the lives of over 160,000 Syrians. [1] Of the country’s pre-war population of about 22 million people, over 2 million have sought refuge outside the country, while more than 6.5 million Syrians have been internally displaced. [2]

Syrian Christians, in particular, have become the target of both extreme factions of the opposition and the Syrian government forces. In areas controlled by the opposition, kidnappings of Syrian Christians are on the rise. Similarly, Syrian Christians are being forced to join the rebel groups, flee their homes, or face death. [3] Likewise, The Syrian government has engaged in attacks against Christians and other minorities in what has been interpreted as an attempt to “bolster sectarianism”. [4]

Attorneys at David F. Vedder, P.A. appreciate the fact that Immigration Courts are recognizing that Syrian Christians have a reasonable fear of persecution and encourage anyone with a meritorious claim to seek the protections guaranteed to them under U.S. immigration laws.

[1] Anne Barnard, “Syria Death Toll Reported to Rise By 10,000 in Less Than 2 Months” The New York Times, May 20, 2014. http://www.nytimes.com/2014/05/20/world/middleeast/syria.html?_r=0 (last accessed, 07/30/2014).

[2] “2014 UNHCR country operations profile - Syrian Arab Republic” http://www.unhcr.org/pages/49e486a76.html last accessed, (07/30/2014).

[3] Daniel Brode et al., “Syria’s Threatened Christians”, New York Times, June 28, 2012, http://www.nytimes.com/2012/06/29/opinion/syrias-threatened-christians.html (last accessed 07/30/2014); Jamal Halaby,” Syrian Rebels Seek Control of Christian Village”, Associated Press, http://bigstory.ap.org/article/syria-al-qaida-rebels-control-christian-village (last accessed 07/30/2014); “Syria Crisis: ISIS Imposes Rules on Christians in Raqqa”, BBC, http://www.bbc.com/news/world-middle-east-26366197 (last accessed 07/30/2014); Washington Post, 145. “Islamic State Declaration Could Lead to Schism” Associated Press, June 30, 2014. http://bigstory.ap.org/article/al-qaida-splinter-declares-new-islamic-caliphate (last accessed 07/30/2014.)

[4] Jen Psaki, Spokesperson, U.S. Department of State, “Christians Under Threat in Syria, March 3, 2014, http://m.state.gov/md222802.htm. (last accessed 07/30/2014.), International Religious Freedom Report for 2012, U.S. Department of State, Human Rights and Labor, www.state.gov/j/drl/irf/rpt/.

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