More Money For Displaced Iraqis

More money for displaced Iraqis

Andra Jackson
The Age
July 28, 2008

THE Australian Government has put up half a million dollars to try to stop displaced Iraqi women and girls stranded in Syria from resorting to prostitution to survive.

Immigration Minister Chris Evans has expressed concern at United Nations reports that female refugees who have fled from Iraq to Syria are going into prostitution or enduring other forms of exploitation to keep going.

Senator Evans announced last week that Australia would spend an extra $6.45 million on international aid projects to ease the plight of refugees who have fled war and persecution in their home countries. This brings the Government's overall commitment to more than $16 million in 2008-09.

Part of the money will be used to help Iraqi women in Syria who fled sexual violence.

Senator Evans said $553,000 would be contributed specifically towards a United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees (UNHCR) project supporting Iraqi women and girls who were victims of sexual or gender-based violence.

“Funding from the Australian Government will help more than 1000 vulnerable Iraqi women and girls who otherwise have no source of income,” he said.

Australia is also paying for a safe house where victims will receive counselling, support and other assistance.

Senator Evans said the money would also be used on aid projects to help displaced people in Iraq, Syria, Nepal, Bangladesh, Thailand, Africa and Pakistan. The funding is provided under the Australian Governments Displaced Persons Program for projects administered by the International Organisation for Migration, the UNHCR, the United Nations Children's Fund and Austcare.

The UNHCR in Bangladesh will receive $950,000 to build 180 shelters to house 1000 Rohingya families who have fled neighbouring Burma.

Nearly $1 million is to be directed to a UNICEF project in Thailand to strengthen child protection services for children living in the nine refugee camps and villages situated along the Thai-Burmese border.

The project is aimed at protecting children from abuse, exploitation and violence and from becoming the targets of people smugglers.

In addition to the overall commitment of more than $16 million to the Displaced Persons Program in 2008-09, the Government will spend $10 million on projects specifically to help displaced Iraqis over the next year.