As Chair of the All-Party Parliamentary Group on Refugees I am extremely concerned about the situation in Syria and the refugee crisis that has resulted from it, and have been working hard to hold the Government to account on Britain’s role in addressing the situation, and collaborating with refugee organisations both locally and nationally. This includes regularly challenging ministers and secretaries of state in written and oral questions, and meeting the Minister from the Department for International Development with responsibility for Syria, to challenge him on specific aspects of humanitarian policy. I have followed up on all of these and am liaising with Non-Governmental Organisations on what they need.
In addition, I have been liaising with the Chair of the APPG on Syria, Alison McGovern MP, and added my name to an open letter she arranged, signed by over 120 MPs, urging the Prime Minister to authorise urgent airdrops of food and medicine to those in need in Syria. I also attended an emergency debate in Parliament on this issue on 13 December.
The situation in Syria, particularly in Aleppo, is nothing short of a humanitarian disaster. For months, thousands of civilians have come under sustained attack, and faced starvation and a shortage of medicine and medical treatment.
The UN recently described the humanitarian conditions in eastern Aleppo as "barely survivable by human beings." I condemn the actions of the Assad regime and its backers, including Russia, in eastern Aleppo, and we must ensure that they are held accountable for them. As you may be aware, some evacuations have now taken place from eastern Aleppo, and the UN Security Council unanimously passed a resolution on 19 December allowing UN staff to independently monitor these.
Whilst the delivery of humanitarian aid is crucial, there can be no rest in efforts to find a long-term solution to the violence in Syria. It is clear that this can only be achieved through a political settlement. In my view, we need an urgent and concerted effort from the Government to press for an end to the violence and a UN-led ceasefire, the opening of safe channels for the delivery of vital humanitarian aid, and urgent talks through the UN to achieve a negotiated political settlement.
I hope the Government will continue to be fully engaged in discussions on how to bring this conflict to an end, and I can assure you that I will continue to follow any developments closely.
Published 4th January 2017