PRESS RELEASE Meeting with Minister of Immigration March 2013

Sydney – 6 March 2013
On Wednesday, 6 March 2013, a delegation headed by Mr. Hermiz Shahen, Deputy Secretary General of the Assyrian Universal Alliance (AUA), met with the Hon. Brendan O’Connor MP, Minister for Immigration and Citizenship, in the presence of Mr. Chris Hayes MP, Member for Fowler. The delegation also included Mr. David M. David, President of the Assyrian Australian National Federation (AANF) and Mrs. Carmen Lazar, People of Australia Ambassador. Mr. Shahen congratulated the Minister on his new appointment and expressed the AUA sincere gratitude for the magnificent and tireless efforts by the Australian government in the process of helping the Assyrian refugees stranded in neighbouring countries of Iraq. He briefed the minister with the latest developments in Iraq and Syria, the neglect of the Assyrian question after the 2003 liberation of Iraq, the waging of sectarian violence and systematic ethno-religious cleansing that is being instigated by Islamic extremists against the entire Christian population, who is fleeing en masse from threats, kidnappings, rapes and murders.

“As a matter of urgency and importance, we called upon the Australian government to take immediate action and institute lasting measures to address the major humanitarian crisis suffered by the Assyrian refugees. We requested emergency assistance such as food, shelters, education, health care facilities and legal documents for these displaced Iraqi and Syrian Assyrians in order to improve their living conditions in the host countries, specifically in Lebanon, Syria, Turkey and Jordan,” Mr. Shahen said.

“An official letter and some detailed reports were handed to the minister concerning the situation of Assyrian refugees and a mounting number of threats facing the Iraqi and Syrian Assyrians”, he said.

Mr. Shahen thanked Mr. Chris Hayes MP, for organising this meeting at his office in Cabramatta and for his unrelenting commitment to the Assyrian cause and his outstanding efforts over the years in raising the Assyrian case with the Australian government. He also extended his thanks and appreciation to the Minister for Immigration and Citizenship for his wisdom and passion to crises facing the embattled Assyrian refugees. “I hope that this meeting achieves positive outcomes for the interest and needs of our Assyrian people of both countries Iraq and Syria”, Mr. Shahen said.

Mrs. Carmen Lazar, Community Settlement Officer, of the Assyrian Australian Association addressed the casework delivery for the Assyrian Resource Centre as we have the highest rate of needs. In the past five years there have been more than 10,000 arrivals in the Fairfield LGA who require direct casework services. The Settlement Grants Program policy was changed last year as implied by the Department of Immigration and Citizenship who wanted to move to a more generalist service delivery model. Mrs. Lazar reiterated that this model doesn’t work in areas like Fairfield as the new arrivals require people of their own kind to explain to them how Australian mainstream services work and refer them to the correct pathways. This is crucial because it enhances social harmony and integration.

Mrs. Lazar mentioned that Honourable Chris Bowen lobbied on behalf of our organisation to deliver casework even though the policy had changed as he witnessed with his own eyes hundreds of people and clients line up on Mondays and Wednesdays to receive adequate assistance.

The Settlement Grants Program funding in the past has achieved well and has greatly assisted many clients. Mrs. Lazar added that currently we a have submission before the department which is yet to be determined. We have established a very good relationship with the department and would like this to continue for years to come.

Hermiz Shahen
Deputy Secretary General
Assyrian Universal Alliance
Mobile: 0407235349 Fax: (02)9610 2499