24 February 2009

Hostage in Iraq seeks Australian visas for his rescuers

Douglas Wood, an Australian engineer taken hostage in Iraq for two months in 2005, is seeking humanitarian visas for his Iraqi rescuers.

The Department of Immigration and Citizenship (DIAC) released a statement today saying that they have met with Mr Wood to discuss his plea to helping his Iraqi saviours.

"DIAC officers provided information on Australia’s offshore humanitarian program and outlined the options that could be pursued by the Iraqis who assisted Mr Wood," a DIAC spokesperson said.

DIAC officials have referred Mr Wood to put forward Australian visa applications for his comrades, under the special humanitarian program (SHP).  The SHP helps those who are in danger of their human rights in their home country and are currently unable to return home.  They must also have links with Australia, and can prove this by having an Australian citizen, permanent resident, New Zealand citizen or Australian organisation support their Australian visa application.

DIAC has also said that while any applications lodged by the Iraqi servicemen involved in the rescue would be fast-tracked, they would also undergo a thorough assessment of their situation in line with DIAC's standards.

"It is important to remember that we have a large number of people from all over the world seeking resettlement in Australia and each case must be assessed on its merits." 

The Australian Visa Bureau is an independent consulting company specialising in helping people with emigrating to Australia.

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