Australia to offer refuge to Iraqi Christians, Yazidis

Updated: 2014-08-14 09:57


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Australia to offer refuge to Iraqi Christians, Yazidis

Displaced people from the minority Yazidi sect, who fled the violence in the Iraqi town of Sinjar, hold a banner as they take part in a demonstration at the Iraqi-Syrian border crossing in Fishkhabour, Dohuk province August 13, 2014. [Photo/Agencies]

CANBERRA - The Federal Government will open its humanitarian refugee program to as many as 4,000 Iraqi Christians and Yazidis in response to the crisis in Iraq.

Australia to offer refuge to Iraqi Christians, Yazidis
US: Evacuation mission in Iraqi mountain unlikely
Immigration Minister Scott Morrison said on Thursday the Federal Government was "deeply concerned" by the ongoing crisis in Iraq and has now listed Iraqi Christians and Yazidis as eligible for Special Humanitarian Visas.

Under Australia's annual program, there are 13,750 places, but more than 4,000 visas are set aside to refugees who are "most in need of resettlement" due to desperate circumstances.

A spokeswoman says more than 1,000 places were provided last year to people and families affected by the Syrian conflict.

Thousands of Yazidi refugees who have fled a jihadist onslaught in Iraq have pleaded for international assistance, as Australia prepares to deliver humanitarian supplies to Iraq within days.

Prime Minister Tony Abbott held talks on Wednesday with British Prime Minister David Cameron, senior British ministers and security officials on his plans for some form of intervention in Iraq.

He left the way open for an increased Australian military role to help stop the genocide there. "We will do what we reasonably can within our capacities to assist in averting a humanitarian catastrophe," the prime minister said.

In northern Iraq, around 30,000 Yazidi refugees remain trapped on Mount Sinjar, 11 days after fleeing from Islamic State (IS) militants.

Kurdish and Iraqi forces are continuing their efforts to free the Yazidis, while the United States and other Western aircraft have dropped supplies to help keep the displaced people alive.

The government's offer of refuge came after the new Anglican Primate of Australia, Philip Freier, called for asylum in Australia for Christians facing slaughter in northern Iraq.

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