Christmas is a week away and the stresses from last- minute present shopping and Christmas dinner planning are in full flow. But amongst these worries are thoughts about the 3.3 million Syrian refugees facing a cold and hungry winter scattered across Iraq, Jordan, Lebanon, Turkey and Egypt.
Recently the UN’s World Food Programme have suspended food vouchers to hundreds of thousands of them because of lack of funds. This is devastating and endangers the health and safety of the refugees, as well as potentially causing further tensions, instability and insecurity in the neighbouring host countries.
We must do more to support our allies such as in the Kurdistan region of Iraq, where many Syrian Kurds have fled. The UK government have provided £700 million to help, but the scale of the population movement means more funds are needed to stop this being a humanitarian catastrophe.
The UN High Commission for Refugees has described the hospitality and support to the refugees provided by the Kurdistan Government and the people of Iraq as extraordinary. I saw this when I visited the Domiz refugee camp in the Dohuk province a year ago; a camp now ‘home’ to over 75,000 Syrian refugees. A new camp is due to open on the outskirts of Erbil for refugees from the besieged Syrian town of Kobane.
The Kurdish people are doing all they can to help, however this is on top of their ongoing support to the two million internally displaced Iraqis because of the deterioration of security as a result of the so-called Islamic State attacks. This places a huge burden on the region’s social services, as well as its financial resources. Before long this will become unsustainable.
Refugees must not be left to languish in hunger and misery. Only 90 Syrians have been resettled in the UK, surely we can take a greater share in dealing with this humanitarian crisis and avert further suffering.
Syria’s three-and-a-half year civil war has killed more than 200,000 people, displaced 6.5 million within the country and forced more than three million to seek refuge elsewhere. Let’s make this Christmas the last of this devastating conflict.
To find out more about the Kurdistan Emergency Appeal go to www.kurdistanemergency.org