Media Release: Monday, October 15, 2007

Calls today in an open letter from a coalition of groups for those refugees in greatest need to be given priority should also be extended to persecuted minority groups fleeing Iraq according to the Australian Christian Lobby (ACL).

ACL Managing Director Jim Wallace said the lobby group is concerned that high risk minority groups facing persecution in Iraq, such as several Christian groups and the Mandaeans, are being under-represented in Australia’s refugee intake from the Middle East.

“The plight of the Mandaeans is a case in point,” Mr Wallace said. “Their association in Australia informs me that since January 1 this year there have been 169 rejections of Mandaean visa applications and only seven approvals.

“These people are facing the most dire situations in Iraq, such as kidnapping, rape and murder. It is unthinkable that they should be so poorly represented in the refugee intake for that area,” he said.

“We’re aware of many Christian minority groups facing similar difficulties in having applications approved under Australia’s Offshore Humanitarian Visa Program.

“Corruption and bias are endemic in the Middle East and we should ensure that the necessary measures are put in place so that those in most need, those most under threat, are benefiting first from our refugee policy.”

“This should include an increase in Australian staff in the Middle East at the first point of contact with applicants, so that the system can be administered to achieve the Government’s objective of meeting greatest need.”

Media Contact: Glynis Quinlan