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Assyrian Australians Plead for Second Special Refugee Settlement Deal
By Omar Dabbagh

Maryam Shamoon (far left) was refused a humanitarian visa, after initially being allowed to apply with her brother's family.
Australia's Assyrian community is pleading the federal government for another special refugee intake to allow them to reunite family members left behind.

"If they can just lend another hand, you know, give us another 12,000 intake, just to release that pressure from what's happening overseas," Carmen Lazar, manager of the Assyrian Resource Centre, said.

The Department of Social Services has confirmed that 11,400 Iraqi and Syrian refugees have arrived in Australia has part of its one-off humanitarian intake.

In 2015 the Abbott government announced 12,000 additional humanitarian visas would be granted to persecuted groups in the war-torn country.

The Department of Immigration and Border Protection said on Monday those visas have been filled.

"All 12,000 additional places have now been granted visas," a spokesperson said in a statement.

Pleas for a second special intake

Australia's Assyrian community members told SBS World News they were in a constant state of desperation, as they hoped to bring relatives from the Middle East.

Aleen Shamoon, who arrived in Sydney from Jordan six months ago after fleeing Iraq in 2014, is one of those separated from a loved one.

Her husband, mother and brother's family all received humanitarian visas, but her 62-year-old aunt, Maryam, who had lived with them her entire life, was refused.

"We're really upset because she is an older woman, she doesn't have anyone," Ms Shamoon told SBS News in Arabic.

"She practically raised my brother. She is emotionally exhausted. She is an elderly woman, where is she meant to go?"

The Shamoons applied for the visa as one family, which they initially passed. But when it came to the security checks, aunt Maryam was told she had to start again and apply separately.

Ms Shamoon said her aunt was eventually rejected, forced to stay in Jordan and unable to afford rent.

"When I speak to her, she is distraught. She is very worried," Ms Shamoon said.

"There is no solution for her. What's left for her? She can't go back to Iraq because there is no-one there for her."

Ms Lazar, said the Shamoons' case was not uncommon.

"This is getting worse day by day, and this is not what we want," she told SBS News.

"I know that the government of the day does not want to split families, but unfortunately this is happening."

Application influx continues

While the special intake target of 12,000 has been reached, families are still applying for visas, including Syrian refugee Manar Zaya.

"The most important thing for us is my sister in law in Lebanon," Ms Zaya told SBS News in Arabic.

"She has four children; her husband was killed in Syria. She has been waiting for five months since her application was approved. No one has spoken to her."

Fellow Syrian refugee Falah Atwan is facing is a similar struggle.

"My son has been in Turkey for almost five years," he said.

"He fled from Syria. His cousin was killed in Syria. He applied for him to come here, all the forms, and we haven't received anything."

SBS News contacted Immigration Minister Peter Dutton for comment, was a spokesperson reaffirmed that the refugee special intake was a "one-off" deal.


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