Australian MPs Support Assyrian Autonomous Region in North Iraq
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Sydney (AINA) -- Three members of the Australian Parliament have issued a statement supporting the Assyrian Christians in Iraq. Tanya Plibersek, Deputy Leader Of The Opposition and Shadow Minister For Foreign Affairs And International Development, Chris Bowen, Shadow Treasurer and Chris Hayes, Chief Opposition Whip, issued the statement today. All three are members of the Labor Party.

The MPs called for immediate humanitarian aid for Assyrian refugees and for the establishment of an Assyrian autonomous region in the Nineveh plain.

The Assyrian Universal Alliance invited representatives of the Assyrian Council of Australia to attend a meeting organised by the Hon Chris Bowen MP together with Mr Chris Hayes to meet with the Hon Tanya Plibersek. 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 on 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, 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 use its position and seat with the UN Security Council to support resolutely the demand of the indigenous Assyrians, 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 Assyrians fleeing the sectarian conflict, and to deploy international forces to secure and ensure their safe return to their homes the in Nineveh Plain and Mosul.

Here is the text of the statement by the Australian MPs:

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.

All Australians are appalled by the vicious and brutal terror campaign undertaken by Islamic State forces, which reportedly includes killing those who do not support their radical agenda.

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.

Even though the humanitarian crisis on Mount Sinjar has eased after US air strikes, hundreds of thousands of people forced from their homes still need food, clothing and shelter.

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.

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