PARIS , July 28 (UPI) -- France is prepared to offer asylum to Iraqi Christians displaced by Islamist militants who overtook the city of Mosul, French officials said Monday.
A joint statement by French Foreign Minister Laurent Fabius and Interior Minister Bernard Cazeneuve said, "We are ready, if they so desire, to help facilitate asylum on our territory."
Some of the world's oldest Christian communities reside in Iraq. Many Christians fled Mosul -- the country's second-largest city -- in the past two weeks, after militants of the Islamic State, formerly known as ISIS, seized the city and ordered Christian residents to convert to Islam or pay a tax, on penalty of death.
Only about 20 Christian families remain in Mosul, United Nations data indicate. Patriarch Louis Sako, an Iraqi senior Christian cleric, estimated Mosul had a Christian population of around 35,000 before the invasion by the Islamic State, a figure down from about 60,000 in 2003.