"Since the replica watches advent of twenty years ago, Montblanc star series uk replica watches with classic classic design style to become the most popular watch works. We are pleased that this swiss replica watches most popular series once again usher in a variety of new products, heritage replica watches uk Switzerland Advanced tabulation tradition.

Meg Munn MP - Sheffield Heeley's voice in Parliament | Welcome
Skip over Navigation to the main Page Content (access key is 2)

  Back to News Items Index Back to Index of      Items / Entries …

Bilateral Relations: Kurdistan Region of Iraq

Thursday, January 16, 2014

During a debate in Parliament Meg gave the following contribution.

Meg Munn (Sheffield, Heeley) (Lab/Co-op): I refer to my entries in the Register of Members’ Financial Interests.

I congratulate the hon. Member for Colne Valley (Jason McCartney), who in this debate is my hon. Friend, as well as being my colleague on the All-Party Group on the Kurdistan Region in Iraq, which I have the honour to co-chair with the hon. Member for Stratford-on-Avon (Nadhim Zahawi), who is also my hon. Friend in this debate. I congratulate my hon. Friend the Member for Colne Valley on securing the debate. It is good that we have been able to secure a second debate on the Kurdistan region in less than a year, and a sign of the area’s growing potential.

In November, together with some hon. Members here, I visited the Kurdistan region as part of a delegation from the All-Party Group, and we saw some of the issues affecting the area. The contrast between that visit, which was my sixth, and my first visit four years ago was astonishing and heartening. During my first few visits, it was easy to feel like a pioneer, as there were few western faces about, but today there is a modern airport terminal and several new hotels, each with lobbies full of local and western business people discussing deals and developments. It is truly a transformation.

During the visit in November 2013, we went to the Domiz refugee camp near Dohuk, as did my hon. Friend the Member for Colne Valley, in the summer. The impact on hon. Members who were visiting for the first time, and on me, was such that I want to spend a little longer talking about the situation there.

It is the new home, working place and school for 75,000 refugees from the Syrian conflict, of which 13,000 are children. It is just one of 13 refugee camps in the Kurdistan region and the largest of the four in the Dohuk province. In a prominent location near the camp entrance is the child protection unit, which is funded by the UK Government and run by UNICEF. With my previous working experience of child protection, I was pleased that we spent considerable time addressing the issue of children and their welfare.

The Kurdistan region has been at pains to welcome Syrian refugees, and Dohuk’s governor told me that another 75,000 refugees are living in the province among the host community. Two months ago, there were 150,000 refugees, up from the number that my hon. Friend the Member for Colne Valley mentioned. Many of the refugees living in the region have family connections in the area, and highly-qualified refugees have found jobs and been able to move their families into permanent accommodation within the community.

The United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees has described that hospitality and support as extraordinary. The Kurdistan region has supplied much of the finance itself, which is a huge burden for a region that is still developing its services. For example, many of the local Kurdish schools have double shifts to accommodate all the children who want to attend. The region is not in a good place in terms of being able to welcome refugees, but it is opening its arms to those in desperate need.

I want to emphasise the importance of the Government remembering that the Kurdistan region of Iraq is hosting refugees. In his statement to the House on Monday, the Foreign Secretary referred to refugees in Jordan, Turkey and Lebanon, but did not mention Iraq; refugees are also flooding over that border and being welcomed there. The Government should recognise that.

I pay tribute to the Government, who have committed 500 million of their aid budget to Syrian refugees. The Foreign Secretary made it clear that further funds will be made available, and I fear that that will be necessary well before the end of the conflict. As the fighting in Syria continues, we must ensure that the people in the refugee camps are not forgotten.

During our visit, I met representatives of Syrian Kurdish groups who are members of the Syrian Opposition coalition. The majority of Kurdish groups oppose the Assad regime, and the representatives we met were clear that they wanted the British people and Government to have a better understanding of the situation in relation to the Syrian Kurdish Opposition. They stressed that the organised Opposition in Syria is different from the al-Qaeda groups that grab the headlines. Those groups were asking for greater representation in the Geneva II talks, and I urge the Foreign Secretary to help to accommodate that.

Turning to economic development and relationships with the UK, I had the opportunity to visit the Taq Taq oilfield, run by the Taq Taq Operating Company and the Turkish-British oil company Genel Energy. The oilfield is a large local employer, employing 400 people from local villages.

I understand that the first oil exported to Turkey will be sold by the end of this month, although all of us in contact with the region know that there is some controversy about that. I will not go into that today, but the Kurdistan region has a target of producing 2 million barrels of oil per day by the end of 2019.

Unlike in many post-conflict situations, this region of Iraq is not having to rely on international aid to rebuild its economy. Instead, it is developing the oilfields to ensure a strong source of revenue for decades and generations to come. That foresight and enterprise should be applauded. It was good to meet British citizens working in the oil industry and clearly enjoying working in Kurdistan with local people.

The region is growing quickly, and the regional Government have been strengthening their relationship with Turkey. Not long ago, 200,000 troops were on the border of Turkey, but 200,000 people from Turkey now work in the region. That stability provides a great opportunity to strengthen the commercial and cultural links between the UK and the Kurdistan region.

As my hon. Friend the Member for Colne Valley said, the All-Party Parliamentary Group has long supported improved trade links between the UK and Kurdistan. Since we began lobbying on the issue of visas, the capacity to receive applications for visas and to take biometrics in Erbil has dramatically increased, which we are pleased to see. However, we know, having spoken earlier this month to the Consul General from Erbil that more could be done, if the capacity were there. I urge the Government to look again at the issue and consider providing even more capability. As has been said, our All-Party Group would like to have a further meeting with the Home Office to explore what more can be done.

We have long campaigned, as has also been mentioned, on the importance of direct flights from Kurdistan to the UK. It is good to note that progress is being made with the recent visit by officials to Erbil. However, it would be remiss of me not to press the Minister further on maintaining the pressure for a positive outcome as soon as possible. The UK is the country of choice for trade for many in Kurdistan, and we should do all we can to facilitate those contacts.

Compared with other European countries, there is a lack of ministerial support from the UK to British companies in Kurdistan. Trade and Industry Ministers in Italy, Germany and other countries tend to visit Kurdistan, often with big trade missions, and they are all well received by the Kurdistan Regional Government. Although it was a great pleasure, along with my hon. Friend the Member for Stratford-on-Avon, to lead a trade delegation as a Back-Bench Member of the UK Parliament in 2010, so much more could be done if Ministers were to go out with trade delegations and the companies that really want to do trade in Kurdistan, to make those contacts. It is clear that the countries that are giving that priority are benefiting, through positive contacts with their companies, and through gaining contracts.

Similarly, it is good to see that the UK remains the country of choice for the majority of students who are funded by the Kurdistan Regional Government on placements overseas as part of their human capacity development programme. Many universities across the UK are welcoming students, including Sheffield Hallam University. That is a real benefit for all concerned and is likely to have long-term benefits.

The University of Huddersfield, which has already had a mention this morning, has even formed an alumni association in Kurdistan, with more than 70 former students and their families attending the recent launch. We know that many students who have spent time in the UK carry positive attitudes for the rest of their lives, which can lead to ongoing relationships in a wide range of walks of life, including business, academia, and even politics.

The willingness of the people of the region to help and support people from other areas of Iraq who have faced persecution, particularly the Christian community, has been impressive. They have again shown their good will in providing help to the refugees from Syria. They are a beacon in the middle east of a stable, democratic and welcoming people and Administration.

It is time for more MPs and Ministers to take seriously our relationships with the Kurdistan region, and it would be good to see the Select Committee on Foreign Affairs, for example, doing an investigation into the prospects for the Kurdistan region of Iraq and the issues facing the Kurds across Syria, Turkey and Iran; that is just a suggestion.

I am sure that other hon. Members will cover security, but we stress the importance of the Government providing non-lethal security equipment to help the KRG. The UK must do all that it can to support the ongoing work of the KRG to develop the resources in the area and the skills and enterprise of the people.


  Back to News Items Index Back to Index of Items / Entries …

^ Top of Page