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Iraqi minorities at risk, group says

LONDON, Sept. 24 (UPI) -- Iraqi refugees from minority ethnic and religious communities face losing their heritage as they take up residence in host countries, a rights group says.

Minority groups from the Christian religious community to ethnic Yazidis, Shabaks and Turkomen are fleeing Iraq in record numbers in the wake of the U.S.-led invasion in 2003.

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The Christian community in Iraq was the target of attacks in late 2008, forcing nearly half of the population to neighboring Syria.

A report by Minority Rights Group International says many of the minority groups fleeing Iraq find only discrimination and restrictive policies in their host countries, however.

"Minorities are leaving Iraq because they are specifically targeted for attack due to their religion and culture, but getting out of the country is no guarantee of their safety and security,'" says Carl Soderbergh, MRG's director of policy and communications.

Soderbergh says many of the restrictive policies in asylum countries are having a serious impact on the religious and ethnic heritage of minority groups from Iraq.

"They are at risk of cultural eradication," he says.

The U.N. refugee agency estimates there are roughly 1.1 million Iraqi refugees living in Syria and another 450,000 in Jordan.

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