In our report last year we were in the midst of a flow of refugees into Sri Lanka from Pakistan and Iran and we were expecting this might be ongoing. However the Sri Lankan Government has closed access and has been sending asylum seekers back. As you will have noted from our reports in the ACBM eNews none of our brethren were actually returned, although one family was taken to the airport for deportation and just before the flight was due to depart, by God’s grace, the UNHCR declared them to be genuine refugees and they were allowed to stay.

During the year several families have been resettled in the USA and Canada and there is a small number who will hopefully be resettled before the end of this calendar year. This leaves one family still seeking a resettlement country and another which has not yet been accepted as refugees. Our Pakistani and Iranian brethren have given strong support to the Negombo Ecclesia in Sri Lanka, who have in turn given strong support to them. The ACBM continues to provide assistance to our refugee brethren right through until they are resettled in a new ecclesial environment in a new and safer country.

Before any resettlement occurs, asylum seekers need to be accepted by the UNHCR as genuine refugees and once this has taken place, which can take up to two years or longer, then the process of finding a country for resettlement begins. Each country accepting refugees establishes its own refugee policy regarding the country of origin and often the country where refugee status has been gained. For example, Australia accepts Iranian refugees out of Pakistan but not out of Sri Lanka. The USA accepts the largest number of displaced persons followed by Australia and Canada but with the growth in refugees year by year, resettlement across the world provides only 10% of the annual requirements and therefore the number of displaced persons is increasing at an alarming rate. Clearly this is a problem which will only be resolved with the return of the Lord Jesus Christ.

Iranian asylum seekers often escape via the very treacherous route across the mountains to Turkey. This year has seen the remarkable growth in the number of Iranian asylum seekers being baptised in Turkey. These new brethren have not been idle in their preaching either, and in turn have influenced a number of their countrymen to accept the Truth whilst in Turkey to the point where there are now some 70 Iranian refugee brethren in five ecclesias across Turkey, awaiting resettlement. The countries of Iran and Turkey fall within the CBM (UK) area of responsibility though the ACBM gives support wherever possible.