Syria refugee crisis: EU not doing enough
(Brussels, 16 January 2013) As violence in Syria escalates, leading NGOs have urged European Union justice and home affairs ministers to act now to help refugees fleeing Syria. Amnesty International, Churches’ Commission for Migrants in Europe, European Council on Refugees and Exiles and the International Catholic Migration Commission have issued a joint statement to the ministers who are meeting in Dublin on 17 and 18 January.
“EU ministers must urgently make a tangible commitment to help and protect everyone who has managed to escape the devastating conflict in Syria. The time to act is now,” said Nicolas Beger, Director of Amnesty International’s European Institutions Office. “We hope the EU will show leadership and deliver swift and sustained support to people fleeing Syria, now and in future.”
To date, over 620,000 refugees have fled to nearby countries to escape the bloody conflict that has so far left at least 60,000 people dead, according to United Nations figures. At least two million others within Syria have been displaced from their homes. Many are suffering extreme hardship in harsh winter conditions in Syria and the region, as recent flooding in Jordanian refugee camps has highlighted. The United Nations Syria Regional Response Plan is seeking US$1bn to support up to one million Syrian refugees during the first half of 2013.
While Syria’s neighbours, Iraq, Jordan, Lebanon and Turkey, continue to host many people under increasingly difficult circumstances, the above-mentioned organisations have stressed that the EU should respond decisively and effectively to protect refugees fleeing Syria, in the surrounding region and in Europe. Failing to do so might force regional host countries, which are already under great strain, to turn away further refugees from Syria and impose unacceptable conditions and restrictions on those already present.
From April 2011 to October 2012, approximately 23,500 Syrian nationals have applied for asylum in the EU, 15,000 of these applications have been lodged in Germany and Sweden. While many EU countries have been granting some kind of protection to Syrian refugees, treatment and levels of protection vary greatly between different EU countries. While the EU and its member states have acknowledged the scale and urgency of the mounting refugee crisis and have increased aid to countries in the region to meet the growing humanitarian disaster, it is seen as imperative that the EU should greatly step up its commitment and efforts to tackle the crisis.
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