Syrian Refugees — Statement

Part of the debate – in the House of Lords at 8:20 pm on 20th January 2014.

Alert me about debates like this

Photo of Lord Taylor of Holbeach Lord Taylor of Holbeach The Parliamentary Under-Secretary of State for the Home Department 8:20 pm, 20th January 2014

My Lords, in response to an Urgent Notice Question in the House of Commons earlier today, my honourable friend Mr Mark Harper, the Minister, responded as follows:

“More than half the Syrian population of 9.3 million is in need of humanitarian assistance, and 2.3 million have been displaced from Syria into neighbouring countries. This is a crisis of international proportions and needs a commensurate response from the international community. The Government are proud to be playing their full part in that response and share the view of the UN Secretary-General that the priorities must be to, “assist the Syrian parties in ending the violence and achieving a comprehensive agreement for a political settlement”, and ending the suffering of the Syrian people.

No one should underestimate the difficulties ahead, but we are determined to strive for a peaceful settlement through the Geneva II process which starts later this week and is working towards the establishment of a Transitional Governing Body for Syria. We continue to believe that the best way to address the suffering of the Syrian people should be to provide humanitarian assistance to displaced people in partnership with neighbouring countries and UNHCR. Prior to last week the Government had provided £500 million for the Syrian relief effort already, of which £480 million has been allocated to partners in Syria and the region. It has already helped over 1 million people, for example almost 320,000 people are being provided with food assistance each month in Syria and neighbouring countries and over 244,000 people in Syria have been offered medical consultations. The Government are continually pressing for better access and protection for humanitarian convoys inside Syria so that aid can get to the millions in need inside the country. This represents the UK’s largest ever response to a humanitarian crisis.

We are leading the way in helping Syrians suffering from the humanitarian crisis. We contribute in several ways: as the second largest donor helping refugees in the region behind the United States of America and through consideration of Syrian asylum claims under our normal rules. In the year to September we recognised over 1,100 Syrian nationals as refugees. We are very aware that some, including the UNHCR, would like to see a more proactive programme of resettlement of refugees currently hosted by countries neighbouring Syria.

We have considered the options carefully and respect the views of those countries that favour a resettlement programme, but we maintain the view that our top priority should continue to be to provide humanitarian assistance to displaced people in the region in partnership with neighbouring countries, UNHCR and other UN and non-governmental partners. Most of those displaced want to return home as soon as it is safe to do so and protection in the region helps to afford them that hope.

Beyond immediate humanitarian assistance, our priority must be to help neighbouring countries provide sustainable protection in the region. Accordingly, this should be our focus rather than resettlement or providing humanitarian admission to displaced Syrians, initiatives which provide only very limited relief to the neighbouring countries and can only have a token impact on the huge and increasing volume of refugee numbers.

The UK can be proud of its contribution so far but there is still much to do. Last week the Secretary of State for International Development pledged a further £100 million in aid.

I recognise that this is a highly emotive issue and one that continues to require real action through high levels of international co-operation, both in the region and more widely. The UK has a proud tradition of providing protection to those in need and this Government are committed to continuing to play their full part in the international response to the humanitarian crisis in Syria”.

That concludes the Statement.