Opposition Day — [19th Allotted Day] — UNHCR Syrian Refugees Programme

Part of the debate – in the House of Commons at 1:59 pm on 29th January 2014.

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Photo of Theresa May Theresa May The Secretary of State for the Home Department 1:59 pm, 29th January 2014

No one chooses to be a refugee. The women and men pouring across Syria’s borders are the innocent victims of a conflict in which the vast majority have played no part. In many cases, they flee because their towns have been pulverised, their children’s schools destroyed, their hospitals bombed and their supplies of food and water cut off. They have lost relatives. Many have been injured. Some have survived the first use of chemical weapons this century. Their suffering, inflicted on people who are no different from us in their desire for peace, security and freedom, is hard for any of us to imagine.

As hon. Members in all parts of the House have said, this is a humanitarian catastrophe with no end currently in sight. At stake are the lives of millions of innocent people and security in the middle east, all of which has an impact on us here in the UK. The question is: what can we do, as the United Kingdom, to address these problems? The answer, above all, as I made clear in my statement earlier today, and as my right hon. Friends the Prime Minister and the Foreign Secretary have also explained, must be that we work to end the conflict. Her

Majesty’s Government are using diplomacy and humanitarian aid to carry out that work, and are taking measures to protect the security of our own country.

The United Kingdom is taking a leading role in addressing this crisis. At the United Nations Security Council, we and our partners are urging Russia to work with us to end the conflict, and we are pressing for full and unfettered humanitarian access. As members of the core group of the Friends of Syria, we are instrumental in supporting a moderate opposition, without which there can be no political settlement in that country, only the murderous tyranny offered by Assad or the warped ideology of terrorist extremists and foreign fighters seeking to exploit the violence. In addition, we are saving countless lives through our humanitarian assistance.

Britain has indeed been leading the world in responding to the disaster. We are the second largest bilateral donor, after the United States. We are providing £600 million for the Syrian relief effort and to help neighbouring countries, which are supporting those who have sought refuge there, to meet the needs of those refugees and bolster their own security. This effort has united support across the House. Right hon. and hon. Members have rightly expressed their considerable concern, and I commend those on all sides of the House who have done much to raise the issue and keep the plight of innocent Syrians in our thoughts.