HC Deb 15 July 1935 vol 304 cc729-30

asked the Secretary of State for Foreign Affairs whether in view of the grant by the Iraq Government of £125,000 towards the settlement of Assyrian refugees in Syria and the offer by the French Government to provide land in Syria, His Majesty's Government will provide, the remainder of the sum necessary to carry out the migration scheme recommended by the League of Nations?

9. Lieut.-Commander TUFNELL

asked the Secretary of State for Foreign Affairs whether the president of the League Council Committee has yet reported to the committee on the settlement of the Assyrians in Syria; and, if so, whether he can make any statement as to the nature of the recommendations in this document?


The report of the President of the League of Nations Assyrian Committee on his mission to Iraq and Syria was considered by the Assyrian Committee at Geneva last week, and a statement has now been issued by the Information Section of the League of Nations, the text of which I will circulate in the OFFICIAL REPORT. Until the various documents referred to in the statement have been received and considered by His Majesty's Government, I regret that I am unable to make any further statement.


May I get an answer to my question if I put it down again in a week or so, and will the right hon. Gentleman be good enough to bear in mind that there is a general impression that we have let down these Assyrians very badly?


I hope that that impression will not gain ground. If the hon. Member will put down a question in a week's time, I hope to be able to give him more information than I have done to-day.

Following is the text referred to: Fallowing an invitation by the Iraqi Government, the President of the Council Committee for the Settlement of the Assyrians of Iraq, M. Lopez Olivan (Spain), accompanied by the Secretary of the Committee, recently paid a visit to Iraq. It will be remembered that this mission was authorised by the Council at its meeting of 17th April in connection with an offer made by the French Government to make certain lands in Syria available for the settlement of those Assyrians who might elect to leave Iraq. On its way to Bagdad and again on its return the mission had discussions with the French Mandatory authorities on this subject. The Committee of the Council met at Geneva from 10th to 13th July and after having studied M. Olivan's report took the following decisions:
  1. 1. Having regard to the information obtained on the spot by the mission, the Committee decided, for technical, economic and political reasons, that its efforts should henceforth he directed towards the realisation of the plan for the settlement of the Assyrians in the district of the Gharb.
  2. 2. The Committee requested the French Government to be good enough to supply, before 15th August if possible, full details of the Gharb scheme, with precise information from the technical and financial points of view. The Committee suggested that a financial expert and an expert in exchange of populations should 731 collaborate on behalf of the Committee with the High Commissariat in preparing this document.
  3. 3. At a certain stage, it will be necessary to make a thorough and individual consultation of the Assyrians as to their desire to leave Iraq. But from a preliminary general consultation which the mission made in Iraq, the opinion was formed that as many as 25,000 Assyrians might elect to leave the country.
  4. 4. The Committee took note of the offer made by the Iraqi Government to contribute to the work of settlement a sum of £125,000, calculated on the basis of £10 for each Assyrian up to a maximum of 12,500 persons. The Committee, in view of the opinion of its President regarding the probable number of Assyrians who may elect to leave Iraq, considers that this offer cannot be regarded as affording a sufficiently sure basis for a comprehensive solution of the problem, and has accordingly decided to urge the Iraqi Government to augment its contribution.
  5. 5. The Committee also decided again to draw attention to the appeal made by the Council, on 19th January, 1934, to governments and private organisations, and requested the Secretary-General to apply to all members of the League, urgently appealing to them to make a contribution to enable the plan now adopted by the Committee to be realised.
  6. 6. The President of the Committee has further sent a special letter to the Goverment of the United Kingdom, which has always shown a special interest in the solution of this problem, and which is the only Government, apart from that of Iraq, which has so far made an offer to the League, having several times stated that it was ready to pay its share of a League contribution.
The proposed plan, according to estimates furnished by the Mandatory Power in Syria, involves an expenditure of 60,000,000 French francs (£800,000). This figure does not make allowance for ultimate repayment by the settlers, the principle of which has now been accepted by the Committee. It may be added that the French representative was able to inform the Committee that the estimate on which the Mandatory Power first made its calculations are based on data that are now somewhat out of date and that, in the view of the competent authorities, a fairly considerable reduction in the amount originally foreseen may be possible when a more exact estimate is formed. Nevertheless, in view of the possibility that any reduction may be counter-balanced to some extent by the fact that a larger number of Assyrians may have to be transferred than was originally contemplated, the Committee thinks it prudent still to regard the above figure as the sum which may be required to finance the operation. The success of the whole undertaking now depends on the funds that can be obtained. The only funds so far received amount to £60,000 which have been placed at the disposal of the Secretary-General of the League by the Government of Iraq. This sum has already made possible the transfer from Iraq of 1,386 Assyrians, including the inmates of the Refugee Camp at Mosul which has now been closed down. These Assyrians are now in those villages on the Upper Khabur in which 2,200 other Assyrian refugees have for some time been provisionally settled.