UK refugee charities urge the Prime Minister to help Syrians find safety

In an open letter to David Cameron, leading UK refugee charities are calling on the UK Government to work with European Union member states to establish a Europe-wide evacuation and resettlement programme for Syrian refugees.

On Monday night, the Prime Minister called Syria the “refugee crisis of our time”, adding that Britain is not a country that wanted to stand by and fail to act.

Today, the Refugee Council, Refugee Action, the Scottish Refugee Council and the Welsh Refugee Council are urging the UK Government to address the crisis by playing its part in sharing the responsibility of providing protection for the millions of Syrians displaced by the violence.

The charities say that the UK Government should be commended for the £400m worth of humanitarian aid it has so far provided to the countries bordering Syria but more must be done to avoid the crisis escalating further.

The refugee charities are echoing grave concerns expressed jointly by Ministers from neighbouring countries and the United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees António Guterres that the mounting refugee crisis could have catastrophic implications for the region.

Figures show that 0.1 percent of the 2 million Syrians registered as refugees have found safety in the UK.[1] Less than 100 main asylum applicants from Syria have been supported in Scotland by the Home Office.

Neighbouring countries of Lebanon, Egypt, Turkey, Jordan and Iraq are hosting 97percent of refugees. In Lebanon, one of the most densely populated countries in the world, an estimated one in every seven people is now a Syrian refugee.

With neighbouring countries being pushed to breaking point and growing numbers of desperate Syrians risking their lives to escape the conflict, the charities are urging the UK Government to act quickly to provide safe passage to Europe.

John Wilkes, Chief Executive of Scottish Refugee Council, noted Scotland had a history of successful involvement in resettlement programmes, such the UNHCR’s Humanitarian Evacuation Programme of Kosovo during the late 1990s. Scottish Refugee Council co-ordinated efforts in Scotland to provide safety for hundreds of refugees affected by the war.

He said: “The countries along Syria’s borders are straining under the unbearable pressures of providing basic supplies for the millions of refugees seeking safety there. The establishment of a programme specifically tasked with resettling Syrian refugees in Europe is something concrete we can do to alleviate people’s suffering.

“The people of Syria are desperately in need of the world’s help. We also ask the Scottish Government to commit its efforts and work proactively with the UK Government in ensuring Scotland plays its part.”

Maurice Wren, Chief Executive of the Refugee Council, added: “The scale of the tragedy unfolding in Syria is unprecedented and is sending huge shockwaves across the region.

“The UK Government and wider European Union must help ease the strain on neighbouring countries and share responsibility for protecting the most vulnerable people fleeing the conflict. The consequences of inaction are unimaginable.”

The refugee charities are encouraging the public to ask their MPs to write to the Prime Minister, appealing for him to establish an evacuation and resettlement programme: See www.refugeecouncil.org.uk/syria.

Read the open letter to the Prime Minister.

 

Notes to editors

Key statistics:

  • On 3rd September, UNHCR announced the number of Syrian refugees had passed the 2 million mark.
  • As of end August this comprised 110,000 in Egypt, 168,000 in Iraq, 515,000 in Jordan, 716,000 in Lebanon, and 460,000 in Turkey.
  • Between April 2011 and end June 2013, 2,634 Syrians claimed asylum in the UK (including dependents) which amounts to 0.1% of Syrian refugees worldwide.
  • This compares to 36% who are living in Lebanon.

The UNHCR statistics can be found here:

http://www.unhcr.org/522484fc9.html

The Home Office asylum and immigration statistics can be found here:

https://www.gov.uk/government/publications/immigration-statistics-april-to-june-2013

According to Scottish Refugee Council figures, taken from its Scottish Induction Service, less than 100 main applicants have been supported in Scotland by the Home Office since the crisis broke out in the region.

For further information please contact:

Karin Goodwin or Pauline Diamond, Media Officers, Scottish Refugee Council

Tel: 0141 223 7927/07850 930418

media@scottishrefugeecouncil.org.uk