Rep. Smith Re-Introduces Bill to Provide Emergency Relief to Christian Genocide Survivors in Middle East

By Lauretta Brown | January 12, 2017 | 11:05 AM EST

Rep. Chris Smith (R-N.J.) (AP Photo)

( – Reps. Chris Smith (R-N.J.) and Anna Eshoo (D-Calif.) introduced a bill Tuesday aimed at providing “emergency relief to victims of genocide, crimes against humanity, and war crimes in Iraq and Syria.”

The Iraq and Syria Genocide Relief Accountability Act is an enhanced version of similar legislation Smith and Eshoo introduced last year.

Smith cited his December trip to Iraq in a statement announcing the bill’s introduction, saying, “just last month I saw in Iraq the lack of humanitarian aid for Christian genocide survivors. These genocide survivors told me the United States and global community had abandoned them. They are at-risk from freezing winter temperatures and require emergency help.”

“Because the U.S. Government and United Nations have so far failed to support this life-saving work of the Archdiocese of Erbil, these Christian genocide survivors continue to hang on the edge between life and death,” he added.

“Tens of thousands of Christian genocide survivors in Iraq and Syria need our help now and it is essential that emergency humanitarian aid for the survivors be provided,” Eshoo emphasized, urging colleagues to “quickly move this aid package and bring relief to those who continue to suffer.”

The bill would support organizations that serve genocide survivors in Iraq, aid entities conducting criminal investigation into perpetrators of the genocide and would create a “Priority Two” (“P-2”) designation of “special humanitarian concern to the United States” in refugee determinations for persecuted religious and ethnic groups in Iraq or Syria.

In the past year, Smith called the low number of Syrian Christian refugees admitted to the U.S. “unconscionable.” Christians only accounted for 0.8 percent of the refugees resettled in 2016; and for just 1.03 percent of the total number of Syrian refugees taken in since the beginning of the civil war (187 out of 18,026).

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