britain last night announced details of an £8m emergency aid package for hundreds of thousands of Iraqis forced to flee militant forces.
The move comes amid growing concerns for the worsening plight of refugees in the country amid concerns over massacres by IS – formerly known as Isis (the Islamic State of Iraq and the Levant).
Around 50,000 people from the minority Yazidi community are believed to be trapped on Mount Sinjar.
There were calls last night for Britain to open its doors to refugees affected by the fighting.
Prime Minister David Cameron said he utterly condemned the “barbaric attacks” by IS.
“I am especially concerned for the minority Yazidi community now trapped on Mount Sinjar, where they have fled for their lives,” he said.
“They fear slaughter if they descend back down the slopes but face starvation and dehydration if they remain on the mountain.
“The world must help them in their hour of desperate need.”
Archbishop of Canterbury Justin Welby said that religious minorities in the region – including Christians who have also been targeted by IS militants – were enduring “terrible suffering”.
He said such attacks were part of an “evil pattern” around the world where minorities are being killed and persecuted for their faith.
“It is extremely important that aid efforts are supported and that those who have been displaced are able to find safety.
“I believe that, like France, the United Kingdom’s doors should be open to refugees, as they have been throughout history,” he said.
The Roman Catholic Archbishop of Westminster, Vincent Nichols, joined the appeals for international help for those communities “facing a threat to their very existence in their biblical homelands”.
“It is imperative that the international community ensure the physical protection of all communities in Iraq, their human rights including the right to religious freedom,” he said.
The Department for International Development said its aid package included £2m of humanitarian supplies for 75,000 people. Much of the aid can be dropped from the air.
International Development Secretary Justine Greening said: “This aid from the British people will help the Yazidi community, who are now cut off on Mount Sinjar, get immediate emergency support.
“It will also ensure thousands more people get medical help, shelter, food and clean water.”
Around 250 members of the Kurdish community converged on Downing Street yesterday calling on Mr Cameron to take action. Among them were Yazidis living in the UK, who spoke with horror of family members being killed and others “dying slowly” while they are trapped on Mount Sinjar.
Khairi Al Shareef, 53, an engineering researcher from Cardiff, who has lived in the UK since 1990. Speaking through tears, he said his family had been forced to flee the Yazidi town of Bashiqa after IS militants moved in.
He said: “There is nobody left, Christian or Yazidi, any minorities – 500,000 families have fled.
“Isis came yesterday and they said ‘If you don’t convert to Islam within three days, we will chop off your heads according to Sharia law.’
“I have family there, I haven’t heard from them. We cry. We can’t do anything. They are defenceless. They are in danger of imminent genocide or death.”
Ali Saleem Shemo, a Yazidi law student at Derby University of Derby, said he has also lost touch with his six brothers and sisters.
He said: “I have no idea whether they are alive or dead.”
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