MP raises plight of Syrian refugees

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Local MP Sandra Osborne raised the plight of Syrian refugees at the Council of Europe meeting in Strasbourg last week.

Addressing the Parliamentary Assembly she said the situation in Syria was an “unprecedented crisis” and that the plight of the most vulnerable refugees who will find it most difficult to cope in the camps in the region must be urgently addressed.

She said: “It is clear that donor countries in addition to providing economic and technical assistance to the host countries in the region need to show willingness to undertake and/or expand resettlement and humanitarian admission programmes, in cooperation with UNHCR

“It is to the credit of around 17 member states of the Council of Europe including Germany, Sweden and France, that they have offered places under the UNHCR’S Resettlement and Humanitarian Admission of Syrian Refugees programme

“Until today the UK Government had refused to offer a single place but have now announced a willingness to take a limited number faced by a defeat in the UK Parliament later today.

“The UK has however provided a total of £600 million support to the crisis - the second largest donor - which is obviously welcome and this includes £9.6million pounds to partners working in Syria and the region helping women at risk of or recovering from violence and sexual violence. They have today announced that they will prioritise providing sanctuary in the UK to survivors of torture and violence and high risk women and children in parallel with the UNHCRs Syria Humanitarian Admission Programme.

“A recent International Rescue report on Syria notes that as well as sexual violence there have been accounts of women trading sex for food and desperate families selling their girls in to early marriage to reduce household numbers or pay rent, and that domestic violence in refugee communities is often exacerbated by the economic stress and poor living conditions.

“Accordingly we must broaden our support for women and girls in emergency situations to include the full range of gender based abuses that displaced women and women in conflict experience. And when making funding decisions donors should insist that UN agencies, NGOs and others make violence against women and girls a priority in their programmes.

“It is impossible to talk about the ability of the Palestinians to make progress on meeting their obligations under partner for democracy status without reference to the occupation.

“No country can truly enjoy both the rights and responsibilities of democracy, human rights and the rule of law while it is illegally occupied and struggling to get by on a daily basis.

“Visit the West Bank and especially Gaza and you cannot fail to see the absolutely dire conditions. The Egyptian military has destroyed or closed many of the tunnels that have been supplying Gaza no doubt reducing the illegal smuggling of weapons but also the supply of everyday essentials and economic necessities.

“The winter storms in December led to massive flooding with10,000 people displaced. Gaza will shortly be ‘an unliveable place - with no food, power or clean water’.

Not my words but those of UK Minister Alan Duncan returned from a visit last week. Pressure must be put on Israel and Egypt to end the blockade before it is too late.

“I would also like to support the amendment by the Equality and Non Discrimination Committee in relation to women. Universal human rights should not depend on whether you live in the West Bank, Gaza or Jerusalem , your religion or which political party is in power.

Palestinian women have achieved much over many years in a situation of conflict and insecurity. For example if they achieve a 30 per cent quota when the general election happens they will be ahead of many mature democracies including the UK.

I refer also to UN Security Council Resolution 1325 which reaffirms the significant role that women play in peace negotiations, peace building, humanitarian response and post conflict reconstruction and stresses the importance of their equal participation and full involvement in the maintenance and promotion of peace and security.

“I welcome that this is recognised in the report and amendment.”