The UK government is discriminating against Christian refugees from Syria, the former Archbishop of Canterbury Lord Carey has said.
Carey claims in a newspaper letter that "politically correct" officials are "institutionally biased" against Christian refugees, who are underrepresented in the numbers being moved to the UK.
The 81-year-old former spiritual leader of the Church of England said a failure to address this amounts to potentially unlawful discrimination by the UK government, which would be legally obligated to act if it admitted Christians in the Middle East were facing genocide.
In a letter published by The Telegraph, Lord Carey said: "It is distressing beyond belief to know that the steady 'crucifixion' of Middle East Christians continues.
"In the run-up to Easter British taxpayers will be appalled by this institutional bias against Christians by politically-correct officials."
Carey suggested government workers have a "politically-correct phobia of avoiding any risk of being perceived as anti-Muslim".
He noted, "The Muslim victims of the conflict in the Middle East deserve the same compassion as the minority victims. But at the moment they are receiving greater support than the minorities which are targeted by Muslim extremists."
Carey's comments came as Russian and American diplomats worked to restore dialogue over the crisis in Syria following a week of escalating tensions between U.S. President Donald Trump and his Russian counterpart Vladimir Putin.
Figures show that less than 1 per cent of the Syrian refugees resettled under a UK Government scheme in the third quarter of last year were Christians, The Telegraph reported.
'BIAS AGAINST CHRISTIANS'
Carey said, "In the run-up to Easter British taxpayers will be appalled by this institutional bias against Christians by politically correct officials.
"In this the British government is not just breaking its manifesto pledge to look after Christian refugees, it also appears to be breaking the law."
Carey served as the Archbishop of Canterbury from 1991 to 2002, and said that Christians are "disproportionately persecuted" in the Middle East and therefore should get priority for UK government help.
The Telegraph said his view is supported by a legal opinion from a human rights barrister which suggests that Syrian Christians are subject to "indirect discrimination" under European human rights laws.
A mere 51 of the 2,592 refugees accepted under the UK scheme between 7 Sept. 7 2015 and June 30, 2016 were Christian - less than 2 per cent.
The proportion slid to less than 1 per cent for the most recent data obtained by the charity under Freedom of Information laws, which showed that just 13 of the 1,583 refugees accepted between July and September last year were Christian.
This is despite Christians making up around 10 per cent of the Syrian population before the civil war began in 2011.
Lord Carey said minority groups find it more difficult to access the UNHCR camps funded by the UK government, which means they are less likely to be included in resettlement schemes which would bring them to Britain.
Christians have been targeted by the grouping calling itself ISIL or Islamic State in Syria alongside other minority groups including Yazidis and Shia Muslims who have been killed, tortured and driven from their homes.
"Ministers' efforts to correct the imbalance are being blocked by often well-meaning but hopeless politically correct officials who claim that to support Christians is to discriminate against others," he said.
A government spokesman said: "UK aid is provided in line with humanitarian principles, so whoever needs our help the most gets it first, regardless of race, gender or religion," Premier reported.