Dr Charles Tannock

Member of the European Parliament for London

The humanitarian situation of Iraqi refugees

Delivered in Plenary - 12th July 2007

Mr President

I was one of those politicians who supported the Iraq war back in 2003 in the belief that Saddam Hussein posed a serious long-term risk to regional stability, but also because of the horrendous brutality of his Baathist regime. I believed this would be replaced by democracy and respect for human rights and the rule of law.

But I, like many others, sadly underestimated the ferocity of the subsequent insurgency and the serious lack of peace planning, post-invasion, by our US allies, in particular their disastrous dismantling of the Iraqi army as a de-Baathification measure, which unleashed disgruntled Sunni officers to lend their expertise to the insurgency. There was also a failure to secure the Jordanian and Syrian borders against jihadi extremists flocking in to have a bash at the allies, not to mention that Saddam opened his jails before his fall, which added organised crime to this lethal cocktail, and always with the fingers of Iran meddling on the side of the Shias in what has now become virtually a civil war.

Curiously, immediately after the invasion, there was little in the way of internally displaced persons or refugees compared to the previous exodus of Kurds in the Saddam days. Paradoxically, the Kurdish flow has now stopped, as this is one of the few remaining peaceful areas of the country.

Sadly, in the last two years, huge numbers of Iraqis – perhaps over two million – have left, particularly the long-suffering, persecuted Christian Assyrian minorities who have been squeezed on all sides by Islamists, who accuse them of collaborating with the crusaders, and by the Kurds, who want their lands. Canon Andrew White, who ran Iraq’s only Anglican Church, left Baghdad yesterday amid fears for his life and safety after trying to secure the release of five kidnapped Britons.

But the EU must now do more to alleviate the crisis by boosting financial aid to the surrounding Arab states, which have received the bulk of the refugees, in particular Jordan and Syria, and they have been particularly good at taking in the Assyrians. The EU Member States must also accept, within reason, more refugees on a temporary basis.