Australia, Sydney: Labor Backs Iraqi Christian Calls for Support
Posted: Wednesday, August 20, 2014 at 05:44 PM UT
This morning the Assyrian Universal Alliance invited representatives of the Assyrian Council of Australia to attend a meeting that was organised by the Hon Chris Bowen MP, Shadow Treasurer together with Mr Chris Hayes MP Chief Opposition Whip to meet with the Hon Tanya Plibersek MP, Deputy Leader of the Opposition and Shadow Minister For Foreign Affairs and International Development. The meeting was also attended by His Beatitude Mar Meelis Zaia Archbishop of the Assyrian Church of the East. During the meeting Mr Hermiz Shahen, The Deputy Secretary General of the Assyrian Universal Alliance and on behalf of the Assyrian Council of Australia requested urgent action to the escalating developments in Iraq most recently due to the seizure of many cities including the city of Mosul and its surrounding towns in the Nineveh plains, by the Islamic State (IS) “an extremist Sunni Muslim group”, which has brought wrought humanitarian disaster to the Christian Assyrians and other minorities in the region.
Mr Shahen strongly urged the Minister that Australia must utilise its position and seat with the UN Security Council to support resolutely the indigenous Assyrian demand; calling for the immediate intervention of the United Nations, the international community and the Australian Government to endorse and to assist in the establishment of a self-administered safe haven in Northern Iraq in support of the indigenous Assyrians fleeing the sectarian conflict in Iraq, and to deploy international forces to secure and ensure their safe return to their homes in Nineveh Plains and Mosul .
The office of the Minister issued the following Statement:
THE HON TANYA PLIBERSEK MP,
THE HON CHRIS BOWEN MP,
THE HON CHRIS HAYES MP,
LABOR BACKS IRAQI CHRISTIAN CALLS FOR SUPPORT
Federal Labor backs calls by Australian representatives of the Iraqi Assyrian and Chaldean Christian community for the Government to help alleviate the suffering of the humanitarian disaster in northern Iraq.
The Shadow Foreign Affairs Minister, Tanya Plibersek, the Shadow Treasurer and Member for McMahon, Chris Bowen, and the Chief Opposition Whip and Member for Fowler, Chris Hayes, met today with community leaders to hear their concerns.
Assyrian and Chaldean Christians have lived in northern Iraq for millennia, but more than 150,000 have been displaced in recent months as they fled Islamic State insurgents, taking refuge in Syria, Lebanon, Iran and other neighbouring countries.
Ms Plibersek, Mr Bowen and Mr Hayes met in western Sydney with leaders of the Assyrian Universal Alliance, the Assyrian Church of the East, the Saint Thomas Chaldean Catholic Church and other community groups.
The community and church leaders have called on the Government to support proposals to establish an autonomous region in the Nineveh plains, to increase humanitarian refugees from the region, and to increase Australian humanitarian aid.
Federal Labor welcomes the decision by the Iraqi Government to support in principle the creation of an autonomous region in the Nineveh plains. We are hopeful that the new government soon to be formed in Iraq will find ways to ensure security and autonomy for minority religious groups.
Federal Labor welcomes the decision of the Australian Government to provide $5 million in emergency humanitarian aid for those fleeing IS – after it had previously cut the Australian aid budget to Iraq from $7.7 million last year to zero – but much more is needed. Australia’s involvement in the Iraq war gives us a particular responsibility to support those who have been displaced.
Federal Labor also welcomes the Government’s decision to allocate 4400 existing refugee places to people from Iraq and Syria, but regrets the Government’s decision to reverse the previous Labor Government’s increase in the humanitarian quota to 20,000.
WEDNESDAY, 20 AUGUST 2014