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Religious Minorities (Algeria)

Volume 587: debated on Tuesday 28 October 2014

2. What recent representations he has made to the Algerian Government on ensuring that Christians and other religious minorities are protected from persecution and discrimination. (905689)

We regularly discuss human rights with the Algerian Government, although we have not raised religious freedoms specifically. Human rights will be on the agenda for the next meeting of the EU-Algeria political dialogue.

I thank the Minister for his answer, although I am disappointed that religious persecution has not been raised with the Algerian Government. What advice is the Foreign and Commonwealth Office giving to colleagues in the immigration service to ensure that they are fully equipped to offer good advice and support to people from Algeria and north Africa more generally who apply for asylum on the basis of religious persecution?

I certainly will raise the matter with my Algerian counterparts. The hon. Lady has raised an important issue. She will be aware that regulations governing religion in Algeria came into force in May 2007. They are designed to be multi-faith and not to focus on one particular religion. I would be delighted to meet her to discuss the matter in more detail.

The atmosphere in which religious discrimination takes place is affected by other issues in a country, including economic pressures and the like. Does my hon. Friend think that the recent successful elections in Tunisia will ease the atmosphere in respect of persecution across the area more generally? Does he also think that economic development in the area, which is necessary for justice to prevail, is getting a boost from our work in Algeria?

I am grateful to my right hon. Friend for his question, and Tunisia is to be congratulated on the considerable progress it has made. It has just completed parliamentary elections, and presidential elections will follow in November, replacing the technocratic Government who have guided the country on its transition towards its new status as a fully fledged democracy. I very much welcome those changes: strong civil society, national dialogue, an apolitical army, and new progress towards a constitution.

Religious intolerance and persecution is a problem throughout the world. What will the Government do to raise that issue with the Human Rights Council next year, and what does the Minister think the United Nations can do now to tackle the problem?

The hon. Gentleman makes an important point, and the issue is raised at the United Nations General Assembly and in our bilaterals. Britain will continue to raise the issue on a regular basis at all our meetings, not just those in the middle east but also with other countries where there are questions to be asked in that area.

What is the Minister doing for my constituents who have complained not only about the treatment of Christians in Algeria but also about the increasing pressure on Christians in Pakistan? What are we doing to monitor that, and what will we do about it?

As I said, we are having bilaterals on that issue. The specific issue in Algeria is to do with new regulations that have been introduced. The rules are there but they now need to be implemented, and we will continue to have a dialogue on that. I intend to visit Algeria soon, and given the concern that the House has expressed today, I will certainly raise that issue during my visit.