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10 actions the “International Community” should urgently take to help Syrian refugees

"Syria has become the great tragedy of this century – a disgraceful humanitarian calamity with suffering and displacement unparalleled in recent history.” António Guterres, United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees, 3 September 2013

There are currently over 2.3 million registered refugees from Syria, 52 per cent of whom are children. In addition, at least 4.25 million people are displaced inside Syria. In July 2013, the United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees (UNHCR) said that “We have not seen a refugee outflow escalate at such a frightening rate since the Rwandan genocide almost 20 years ago”.

Despite the enormous scale of the refugee crisis, the international community has failed miserably to support refugees from Syria or the main countries of refuge. The UN humanitarian appeal for refugees from Syria in the region – which represents 68% of the Syria humanitarian appeal, the largest such appeal in UN history, has remained less than 50% funded for most of 2013. It is currently only 64% funded - this is truly shameful.

Below are 10 actions the “international community”, especially those claiming to be “friends of Syria”, should urgently take to help Syrian refugees. 

The “International Community” in particular countries of the European Union,  Gulf Cooperation Council, US, Australia, Canada and others should:     

1 - Significantly increase the number of resettlement and humanitarian admission places, over and above annual resettlement quotas

2 - Ensure that the UN humanitarian appeals for Syria are fully and sustainably funded 

3 - Support countries faced with large influxes of refugees from Syria to enable them to cope with the pressure on their infrastructure and provide essential services to refugees, including  adequate health care, housing, and food.

EU member states and the EU should: 

4 - Strengthen search and rescue capacity in the Mediterranean to identify boats in distress and assist those on board

5 - Ensure that those rescued are treated with dignity and that their human rights – including the right to seek asylum – are fully respected

6 - Ensure the end of unlawful push-back operations that deny refugees and migrants their rights, particularly on the Greece/Turkey border. 

All countries receiving refugees from Syria should: 

7 - Automatically provide all people fleeing Syria, including Palestinian refugees who were resident in Syria, with a status giving them international protection

8 - Facilitate family reunification for refugees from Syria including by applying flexible criteria to take into account the nature and needs of different families. 

Syria’s neighbouring countries should:

9 - Maintain open borders to all people fleeing the conflict in Syria, without discrimination

10 - Ensure that all people fleeing Syria are not forcibly returned to Syria, in line with the principle of non-refoulement.

More information about these issues are detailed in the new Amnesty International report - An international failure: The Syrian refugee crisis

Kristyan Benedict is on Twitter as @KreaseChan


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