Wednesday, November 10, 2010

Iraqi PM says Christians should stay

Iraq's prime minister on Tuesday cautioned other countries not to encourage Christians to abandon their homeland, after France took in dozens of people wounded in a bloodbath at a Baghdad church.

In the latest attacks on the minority community, meanwhile, three homes in the Mansur district of western Baghdad belonging to Christians were firebombed without causing any casualties, an interior ministry source said.

The attacks came after a November 3 warning from Al-Qaeda that it would step up attacks on Christians.

On his first visit to the church targeted on October 31, Prime Minister Nuri al-Maliki said that at a meeting with Benedict XVI in 2008 he had asked the pope "not to let the east be emptied of Christians, nor the West of Muslims."

"The countries that have welcomed the victims ... of this attack (on the church) have done a noble thing, but that should not encourage emigration," he said on a visit to the Syriac Catholic cathedral where the massacre occurred.

In all, 44 worshippers, two priests and seven security forces personnel died during the seizure of the cathedral by Islamist militants and the ensuing shootout when it was stormed by troops.

Around 60 people were wounded in the bloodbath and France swiftly offered to provide specialist treatment for those with the most serious injuries.

France is the only country to have offered to take in victims of the attack.

Thirty-four Iraqi Christians and a Muslim guard wounded in the incident flew in to France overnight on Monday for admission to hospitals for treatment.

French Immigration Minister Eric Besson has said this fitted France's "tradition of asylum" to take them in, and that asylum would be "handed out generously" to those who seek it.

An estimated 800,000 Christians lived in Iraq before the US-led invasion of 2003 but that number has since shrunk to around 500,000 in the face of repeated attacks against their community and churches.

Christians in Baghdad have now dwindled to around 150,000, a third of their former population in the capital.

On Sunday, a senior Iraqi clergyman said Iraq's Christians should leave the country or face being killed at the hands of Al-Qaeda. "If they stay they will be finished, one by one," Archbishop Athanasios Dawood told the BBC.


Australian government bribes asylum seekers to go home

THE Federal Government will offer incentives to asylum seekers who agree to go home. Immigration Minister Chris Bowen has announced Labor will provide asylum seekers who come to Australia by boat assistance to help them return to their country of origin. Mr Bowen said the aid would consist primarily of job training and placement, and small business start-up support.

The assistance recognises that some asylum seekers are returning to a country they haven't lived in for years, and where they may have limited assets and support networks, he said. "Properly targeted reintegration assistance for returned asylum seekers can minimise the risk that the return will be unsustainable and that returnees will again become displaced," Mr Bowen said.

The International Organisation for Migration (IOM) will deliver the assistance and remain in contact with returned asylum seekers to determine the effectiveness of the program.

Mr Bowen said similar assistance programs had been used by previous Australian Governments and were currently utilised by European countries to return asylum seekers who weren't found to be owed protection.


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