Syrian Refugees (Support and Aid)

Part of the debate – in Westminster Hall at 4:45 pm on 29th April 2014.

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Photo of Lynne Featherstone Lynne Featherstone The Parliamentary Under-Secretary of State for International Development 4:45 pm, 29th April 2014

There is a legal discussion going on at the moment. The UK Government agree that providing partial humanitarian aid cross-border without explicit regime consent is not unlawful in circumstances in which the regime is arbitrarily denying consent for humanitarian access across borders over which it has no control and in the light of the fact that the regime is employing starvation as a method of warfare, which is against international law, against its own people. Such aid, however, must fulfil the requirements of humanity and impartiality.

On whether the UN should give cross-border aid, humanitarian agencies should deliver aid by the most effective route possible to get aid to those who need it. A decision on the UN going across borders without regime consent must be taken after consideration of not only the legal arguments, which we are having now, but the security risks and the risks of regime retaliation against humanitarian operations in other parts of the country where we are getting access to those who are in need. There could be reprisals and then more difficulties created, so worsening the situation.

We continue to urge the United Nations to do all that it can to ensure that aid reaches those who need it. It is indeed a hugely frustrating and dangerous situation, and a desperate one. Although there has been an important step forward, the UN report to the Security Council on 28 March made it clear that obstruction of humanitarian operations is going on in violation of the UN resolution. That is why, as I said to my hon. Friend the Member for Hexham, I will take the message back loud and clear that the UK Government need to consider what our next steps will be to press the United Nations on what further actions it might take. Baroness Amos will provide further details later today, although my hon. Friend already has the details of her proposals—I cannot comment on why his information is better than mine. I assure him, however, that the UK will do everything possible to provide humanitarian assistance to Syrian refugees in the region and outside Syria. We call upon other nations to contribute their fair share in this humanitarian crisis.

I thank hon. Members for their interest and concern about such a desperate situation. The Department for International Development, working hand in hand with the Foreign Office, will continue to focus efforts on ensuring that humanitarian needs are being met, while working hard to find a political resolution to the Syria crisis—although seemingly not in the offing, that is ultimately the only way in which the region will find peace.

Question put and agreed to

Sitting adjourned.