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

We have the totals of what has been pledged by countries around the world. For example, the UK, with its £600 million, is, as I have said, the second largest contributor, whereas Germany, which the hon. Gentleman mentioned earlier, is contributing the equivalent of £350 million—less than us—in humanitarian aid.

Thanks to our funding, food, water, shelter and medicine are being provided to hundreds of thousands of displaced Syrians. Almost 320,000 people a month are being given food inside Syria or in the surrounding region; more than 900,000 people a month are being provided with drinking water; almost 316,000 medical consultations have been enabled; and 300,000 people inside Syria have received basic life-saving items, such as blankets, shelter and clothing. We are also acutely aware of the impact the crisis is having on the lives of children, 1 million of whom are now refugees. We are leading the No Lost Generation initiative with UNICEF and others, which is allocating £30 million to provide protection, trauma care and education for children affected by the crisis.

At the beginning of my speech, I mentioned the need for immediate and unfettered access so that all those in need inside Syria, including those trapped in besieged or hard-to-reach places, can receive aid. The deliberate obstruction of aid has been a particularly sickening aspect of this conflict, and there are reports of people being allowed to starve to death, which is utterly inhumane. Humanitarian aid must be allowed to reach all those in need, and we will not let up until that is done in the besieged city of Homs and across the country.

One of the considerable consequences of this conflict has been the immense pressure placed on Syria’s neighbouring countries. More than 2.3 million Syrians fleeing Assad’s brutality have sought refuge in countries such as Jordan, Lebanon, Turkey, Egypt and Iraq. I cannot commend highly enough the humanitarian spirit demonstrated by these countries, and we cannot underestimate the strain placed on their infrastructure. Through the humanitarian assistance we are providing in the region, we can help them better to shoulder that responsibility. In the face of the vast scale of this crisis, the resettlement of small numbers of refugees from those countries will provide them with only very limited relief, whereas funding to support a larger number of refugees in those places will help ease the stress on their systems.

We have also pledged support to a regional development and protection programme that will provide protection in neighbouring countries to those displaced from Syria, making it easier for them to return home when it is safe to do so. In addition to the £600 million we are providing in humanitarian relief, Britain is also providing £12 million in development funding from the Arab Partnership economic fund to Jordan. It is clear that the best and most immediate way to help displaced Syrians caught up in this terrible conflict is to focus on the region and neighbouring countries, thus reaching a far greater number of people and minimising the trauma and the displacement so many have already endured.

Britain can and should be proud of the role we are playing in supporting the Syrian people during a time of great crisis. As I have made clear, British money is helping to provide food, water and shelter to hundreds of thousands of displaced Syrians every day. We are providing humanitarian assistance to people inside and outside Syria, working hard to achieve improved access to humanitarian aid and pressing Assad’s allies to push the regime to do much more, and through our relocation scheme, we will provide emergency sanctuary to some of the most vulnerable caught up in the war, including children and victims of torture and sexual violence.

The only real way, however, to ensure that the horror, the misery and the killing stop is through an agreed political settlement. That is why the Government will continue in their determination to urge all those involved to find a peaceful and sustainable solution to this crisis, and it is why we must keep up the pressure on Assad and his allies. Only when the fighting stops can the conditions for a solution to the humanitarian crisis be created, and only then will the men, women and children who have suffered so much and been so cruelly torn from their homes be able to return in safety to their homes and livelihoods, which is what the vast majority of Syrians so dearly wish.