I have received a number of emails from constituents who are concerned about the humanitarian crisis in Europe and the Mediterranean.
Like many people I was shocked by the photograph of Aylan Kurdi’s body washed up on the beach, and deeply saddened by his story. His family fled from war torn Syria and wished to move on after living in Turkey for three years, to seek asylum in Canada. The case underlines the terror of the Syrian civil war and the criminal practices of the people smugglers organising the dangerous boat trips.
The Prime Minister has made clear that he too was greatly saddened by this case. He is planning to do more to help Syrian refugees and to tackle criminal gangs of people smugglers who put migrant and asylum seeker lives at risk. He has told us there is no simple or easy solution to this crisis. A long term solution will only be possible if peace and stability can brought to the Middle East and Africa. A comprehensive solution will require actions to resolve the problems in Syria.
The UK has been at the forefront of international diplomatic efforts to resolve the crisis in Syria. The Foreign Secretary, Phillip Hammond has repeatedly called for President, Bashar al-Assad to step down to allow a political transition. The UK has been working with other countries to impose unilateral and bilateral sanctions on the regime in Syria. These include a travel ban and an asset freeze on specified Syrian officials. The government is also assisting the international effort to impede and challenge the brutal ISIL insurgency.
In addition, the Government is already acting to assist refugees from Syria. The UK has allocated £900 million since 2012 to meet needs of people in Syria and refugees in the region – the largest UK response to a humanitarian crisis. The money has gone to some 30 partners such the UN’s World Food Programme and the Red Cross, which have been able – under extremely difficult conditions – to deliver food and water inside Syria.
Almost half of Britain’s aid money for the Syria crisis goes to Syria itself – £440 million. Lebanon has been allocated £211 million and Jordan £177 million. According to the Department for International Development, from February 2012 to March 2015, British aid has provided 13 million food rations to Syrians and supported 224,972 children in formal and informal education.
In Jordan, which is hosting 600,000 Syrian refugees (1/10th of Jordan’s population) UK aid money is providing food, water and shelter to people across the country, as well as supporting basic services, such as education and healthcare.
Justine Greening, the International Development Secretary, said in July: “Despite the difficult conditions they face, the many refugees I have met on my visits to the region say they just want to remain close to their homes. Our aid is helping those people – families whose normal lives have been turned upside down – cope with their shattered lives and stay safe.”
Alongside these efforts, the UK has also granted asylum to over 5,000 Syrians since 2011. This demonstrates that legal routes are available to refugees fleeing violence who are genuinely in need.