Friday, 17 January 2014

Humanitarian support for Syria will need safe passage

I spent last weekend on the Turkish / Syria border where I went to the Nizip refugee camp; the experience moved me in many ways, and I was pleased to be able to help provide warm weather clothing and equipment for the schoolkids there; I have since then called for humanitarian organisations to be able to access the worst hit parts of the war torn country. I believe it is now absolutely vital that the EU and the UN ensure the safe passage for humanitarian organisations to reach people in Syria who are in desperate need and find it impossible to get access to aid. I have seen for myself the challenges they are facing in this most desperate part of the world.

The Government has already rightly committed £500 million to help those affected by the conflict. This is the UK’s largest ever response to any humanitarian crisis. It will provide support including food, medical care and relief items for over a million people including those affected by the fighting in Syria and to refugees in Lebanon, Jordan, Turkey and Iraq. I am particularly concerned by the plight of the many children caught up in this monstrous conflict. Over 50% of the refugees are under 18, that is almost unimaginable. I went as part of an EU-wide delegation and have raised questions in the House of Commons on how the Government is ensuring aid gets to those refugees who need it most. The fundamental mission now must be to secure a deal on the safe transit of aid to those who need it most, that is what I believe will make the biggest difference to the many innocent people caught up in this horrendous conflict.

I spoke on Monday, in the House of Commons:
"Last night, I returned from a four-day trip with the Alliance of European Conservatives and Reformists to the Nizip 2 refugee camp, just inside the Turkish border. Turkey’s amazing humanitarian action and our aid programme—its provision of food, in particular—should be complimented. While I was there, I met representatives of UNICEF, the Foreign and Commonwealth Office, AFAD and, separately, Syrian opposition leaders and military commanders, as well as dozens of refugees, whom we are helping with winter clothing and a social action project. All the Syrians I met want their country back and are desperate to return home. I urge the Foreign Secretary to take all steps necessary to enable Syrian refugees to return to their homeland, both diplomatically through Geneva II, and ultimately through the provision of safe havens."

Responding the Foreign Secretary, William Hague MP, said: "I applaud what my hon. Friend and other colleagues have done in going to assist the people in that region, and I do not doubt at all the sincerity of the message that he brings back, which is that people want to be able to go to their homes in peace. That again underlines the urgency of the political process that we are beginning next week. It is a formidably difficult process, but it is right to start and to try a political process; that is the only sustainable hope of peace. He can be assured that we will give every effort to that."