The Assyrian Universal Alliance (A.U.A.) – Australian Chapter has determined that it must continue to do all that it can to make the Assyrian voice be heard by all democratic governments and international organizations. Since 2003, the A.U.A. has managed to hold several meetings with the Minister for Foreign Affairs, and Minister for Immigration to raise the situation facing the Assyrians in post Saddam Iraq.
We are pleased to announce that on Tuesday September 27, 2011, a closed meeting was organised by the Hon. Chris Bowen MP, Minister for Immigration and Citizenship, and the Assyrian Universal Alliance The delegation attending this meeting were: Mr. Hermiz Shahen, regional Secretary of the Assyrian Universal Alliance for Australia and New Zealand. Mr. David M. David, Executive Board member of the AUA and Mr. Simon Essavian, President of the Assyrian Australian National Federation.
During the meeting, the Minister briefed the delegation with the latest development in the Assyrian refugees situation in neighbouring countries of Iraq. Mr. Bowen stated “The Australian Government remains concerned about human rights issues in Iraq and is closely monitoring the situation of minorities living there and in surrounding countries; Australian Government remains strongly committed to a responsive and targeted Humanitarian Program which provides resettlement to those most in humanitarian need in 2010- 2011.”
Mr Bowen confirmed that Iraq has been one of the most important sources of entrants under the Program over the last decade. Since 1999-2000 over 20,000 people born in Iraq have been resettled in Australia under the Humanitarian Program, around 5500 of them were Iraqi Chaldeans and around 3000 were Assyrian Christians. Iraqis were also the largest nationality resettled under the Program in 2010 -11 with 2151 visa grants in which 613 were Iraqis identifying themselves as Chaldeans Catholics and 185 Iraqis identifying as Assyrians.
Mr. Bowen talked about Australia’s aid program to Iraq which is aimed to improve the lives of the Iraqi people and to help them rebuild after decades of war and dictatorship. It has totalled $360 million since 2003, in addition to US$850 million in debt relief. Australia’s recent three-year, $165 million program (June 2008 to June 2011), was delivered by AusAID, the Australian Federal Police and the Department of Immigration and Citizenship. Almost half a million displaced Iraqis have benefited from $36 million in Australian funding since July 2008 for activities such as health, education, reintegration and protection programs delivered through UN agencies such as UNESCO and Australian NGOs such as Save the Children, CARE and Caritas.
Mr. Shahen presented the Minister with an official letter from the AUA appealing to the Australian Governments to take some immediate, short-term and permanent measures to address this colossal humanitarian crisis. The AUA requested that the government provides Immediate Economical Assistance to address the very basis of the acute humanitarian needs of the Assyrian refugee population and in furtherance to the permanent measures, supporting the Assyrian demands to establish an Assyrian Province, in the Nineveh Plain region. The newly created Assyrian region in the said territory shall be administrated and protected by the Assyrians, under the jurisdiction of the central government. The establishment of such an Assyrian region will be most crucial to the security and survival of the Assyrians also known as Chaldeans and Syriacs in Iraq allowing their greater local control within the context of their integrated, sovereign Iraqi state. Furthermore, such an Assyrian area would allow for political, educational, linguistic, religious, and cultural protection. The letter also requested the Australian Government to commit funding to the basic infrastructure needs of the Nineveh Plain.
The Assyrian Universal Alliance – Australian Chapter, wishes to thank the Hon Chris Bowen MP for the opportunity to meet with him, for his dedicated efforts and for making many representations on behalf of the Assyrian community to the Australian Federal Government. We hope that this meeting achieves positive outcomes for the interest and needs of our Assyrian people in Iraq and the refugees in the surrounding countries.