We applaud aid to Syria, but it is not enough

Aid, Conflict, Humanitarian

On November 26, Oxfam joined with 30 organisations to write an open letter to David Cameron calling for an increase on our pledge to resettle Syrian refugees. Here, we republish the letter in full.  

Dear Prime Minister,

The conflict in Syria has caused the worst humanitarian crisis of our generation and, four years in, is still destroying millions of lives. At least 3.2 million refugees have fled to neighbouring countries placing these states under enormous strain.

Britain prides itself on a tradition of offering help to those in need. Over the years we have offered refuge to thousands at risk from war or oppression, reaching out to Vietnamese, Ugandan Asians and Kosovars to offer them a home. Figures released on Thursday will show that Britain has only so far resettled around 100 Syrian refugees, a woefully inadequate number compared to the scale of the crisis.

While we applaud Britain’s generous aid contribution to the crisis, it is clear that aid alone is not enough. Syria’s neighbours are struggling under the weight of this unprecedented crisis and it is time we stopped asking of them what we are not doing ourselves.

We are therefore calling on rich and developed countries to agree collectively to resettle at least 5 per cent of the total Syrian refugee population by the end of 2015. This is a modest but proportionate contribution and Britain’s fair share of that would involve offering hope for up to 10,000 Syrians in that time. That’s less than 0.3% of all the refugees, but would transform, even save, lives.

Life for the majority of Syrian refugees is desperate, but some are simply unable to survive in the region. For torture victims, women who have survived sexual violence, sick children who, without treatment, could die, life outside the war is a daily battle. These are the people Britain has promised to help and we must help more of them.

On 9 December, a pledging conference on resettlement will be hosted by the UN High Commission for Refugees in Geneva. Britain should use this opportunity to take the lead alongside other European countries who have pledged to resettle thousands of refugees from Syria.

In this case, numbers speak louder than words. To do anything other than increase our pledge to thousands, not hundreds, would be to send the wrong message to Syria’s most vulnerable people, and the countries currently hosting them, all desperately asking for our help.

Signed by:

Kate Allen, Director, Amnesty International                                                         
Maurice Wren, Chief Executive, British Refugee Council
Mark Goldring, Chief Executive, Oxfam
Justin Forsyth, Chief Executive, Save the Children
Wayne Myslik, Chief Executive, Asylum Aid
Ratip Alsulaimen, Director, British Syrian Education Centre
Chris Bain, Director, CAFOD
Laurie Lee, Chief Executive, CARE International UK
Paul Valentin, International Director, Christian Aid
Tiffy Allen, National Coordinator, City of Sanctuary
Dr Carol Homden CBE, Director, Coram Children’s Legal Centre
Chris Doyle, Director, Council for Arab-British Understanding (CAABU)
Aine O’Brien, Co-Director, Counterpoints Arts
Leigh Daynes, Executive Director, Doctors of the World UK
Beryl Randall, Director, Employability Forum
Aleema Shivji, Chief Executive, Handicap International UK
Mazen Ejbaei, President, Help 4 Syria
Othman Moqbel, Chief Executive, Human Appeal
Fr. Peter Balleis SJ, International Director, Jesuit Refugee Service
Zrinka Bralo, Executive Director, Migrant and Refugee Communities Forum
Shahid Bashir, Deputy Chief Executive, Muslim Hands UK
Dr Mohamed Nasreldin, General Manager, North of England Refugee Service
Jim Steinke, Chief Executive, Northern Refugee Centre
Sally Daghlian OBE, Chief Executive Officer, Praxis Community Projects
Dave Garratt, Chief Executive, Refugee Action
John Wilkes, Chief Executive, Scottish Refugee Council
Emma Williams, Chief Executive, Student Action for Refugees
Ros Holland, Chief Executive, The Boaz Trust
Anna Nolan, The Syria Campaign
Salah Mohamed, Chief Executive, Welsh Refugee Council
Natasha Walter, Women for Refugee Women

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Author: Mark Goldring
Archive blog. Originally posted on Oxfam Policy & Practice.