Australian Parliamentary Delegation to Armenia Visits Goris Refugee Centre, Delivers Australian Aid for Artsakh Refugees

On 27 September 2023, the seven members of the Australian Parliamentary Delegation to Armenia visited the border city of Goris, hosting thousands of Armenian refugees fleeing the Republic of Artsakh (Nagorno Karabakh) as a result of Azerbaijan’s military aggression, before assisting in the preparation and delivery of the Armenian Relief Society of Australia’s humanitarian aid, funded through the Ryde City Council Mayor’s Appeal for Artsakh, reported the Armenian National Committee of Australia (ANC-AU).

The delegation met with the Deputy Mayor of Goris, who spoke of the challenges faced by the city’s authorities as a result of the mass exodus unfolding from Azerbaijan’s ethnic cleansing of indigenous Armenians from Nagorno Karabakh, and explained the process and procedures in place to deal with the displaced, all whilst thousands of refugees queued up outside a building now being used to process refugees by the International Committee of the Red Cross (ICRC).

The Australian parliamentarians were given a unique opportunity to hear first-hand of the challenges being faced by people on the ground, as well as hearing from young Armenian-Australians who have travelled from Australia and are volunteering to help alleviate the humanitarian crisis on the ground.

Tim James MP, Member for Willoughby, who is leading the delegation alongside Hugh McDermott MP, Member for Prospect, said, “I saw first-hand the human toll and tragedy wrought by ethnic cleansing: children, parents, grandparents, people of all ages and stages evicted from their homeland. Peaceful people had to flee their homes, some with little more than the clothes they were wearing, having been attacked, threatened and, in some cases, seeing family members killed or captured. It was heartbreaking.”

“Yet there was action underway to help those most in need – and it meant so much to personally contribute to it. Amidst so much adversity, I witnessed the great spirit of a proud and resilient people who love their country and culture and who will, in time, prevail. That people from my homeland and electorate in Australia are helping to provide support and aid, is something I’m proud of – but there’s much more to do, and we need all people of goodwill to lend their support,” James added.

Susan Carter MLC, who was visiting the Republic of Armenia for the first time, said: “I’ve seen cars arriving with bundles of kindling and teddy bears strapped to their roofs. People have arrived with what they can and are driven away from their homes by the fear of what is going to happen if they stay, and it is very clear that the creation of that fear is deliberate and is a tactic to force the people of Artsakh from their homes and, in the 21st century, we should not be seeing this at all.”

Armenian National Committee of Australia Executive Director, Michael Kolokossian, who wrote to the Australian Foreign Affairs Minister on behalf of the community urging Australia to join the United States in providing emergency humanitarian aid, said: “The entire experience shook me to my core. I have never seen anything like that. Walking towards the centre, I saw mothers who had slept in their cars cradling their newborn children. I saw children as young as 3 frantically trying to open a juice popper as if they hadn’t received proper solids or fluids for months. It was unbearable. These people need as much help as possible. They need help from Australia.”

The delegation also travelled to Yerevan to witness the delivery of aid purchased through the Ryde City Mayor’s Appeal for Artsakh, which raised funds  for the Armenian Relief Society of Australia to deliver essential goods to help the Armenians of Artsakh. The fundraiser raised over $38,000 in two weeks, led by contributions from the Ryde City Council, thanks to a motion moved by Mayor Sarkis Yedelian, Willoughby City Council, thanks to a motion moved by Councillor Sarkis Mouradian, and the Armenian-Australian community more broadly.

The ANC-AU-led Australian Parliamentary Delegation to the Republic of Armenia helped prepare and deliver the aid to the office that will distribute to the arriving Artsakh refugees.

Seven Australian parliamentarians from the New South Wales and Victorian Parliaments are participating in the third Australian Parliamentary Delegation to Armenia, led by the Co-Chairs of the NSW Parliamentary Friends of Armenia, Hugh McDermott MP and Tim James MP. They are joined by NSW State parliamentary colleagues Mark Coure MP – NSW Member for Oatley, Matt Cross MP – Member for Davidson, Susan Carter MLC – Member of the Legislative Council, as well as two sitting Victorian State MPs, including Kim Wells MP – Victorian Member for Rowville and Ann-Marie Hermans MP – Member of the Victorian Legislative Council, as well as former federal parliamentarian, Tim Wilson – Former Federal Member for Goldstein and Australian Human Rights Commissioner, who is of Armenian origin.

The delegation also includes Australian business leaders and members of the ANC-AU National Board and Office.

To watch the statements made by several of the Australian Parliamentarians outside the makeshift Goris Refugee Centre, please click here.