Following an urgent appeal launched by the Bishops members of COMECE (Commission of the Bishops' Conferences of the EU) last November on behalf of Iraqi refugees, the President of COMECE, Bishop Adrianus van Luyn, has sent a letter to the Slovenian Presidency of the EU requesting that the issue be put on the agenda of the next meeting of the Justice and Home Affairs Council. In a letter dated 7 January, addressed to Mr Dragutin Mate, Slovenian Minister for Home Affairs and current President of the Justice and Home Affairs Council, Bishop Van Luyn drew attention to the situation of the 4.4 million Iraqis, forced to leave their country. According to the UN High Commissioner for Refugees (UNHCR), the situation can be considered the greatest refugee disaster in the Middle East since 1948. Amongst these, the non-Muslim refugees (Christians, Mandeans and Yazidis) are considered as most vulnerable by the UNHCR, because they are regarded and treated as infidels by parts of the Muslim population of the countries where they have found refuge (Syria, Jordan, Lebanon, Turkey). In the light of this inhumane situation, given also that the countries of reception are overburdened and that there is a risk of proliferation of networks fostering clandestine immigration, Bishop Van Luyn calls for action on the part of EU leaders. He proposes that, as in the case of the Vietnamese boatpeople who were received in Europe in the late 1970s, the governments of the EU take in up to 60.000 members of non-Muslim Christians, Mandeans and Yazidis minorities. The President of COMECE also asks that the governments of the countries neighbouring on Iraq be granted political and material assistance in coping with the presence of huge numbers of refugees.
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