People fleeing Syria must be granted access when they arrive on borders of EU states
Facility for resettlement needed to take huge pressure off neighbouring states
Fourth, for those in situations of heightened vulnerability, the possibility of resettlement is needed. Many states, including Ireland are already participating in the resettlement of small numbers of refugees out of Syria. In addition, Germany has recently launched a programme to admit 5,000 Syrian refugees under simplified procedures, including many vulnerable people. I hope other states will follow Germany’s example to extend solidarity and support to countries neighbouring Syria who are experiencing the greatest impact of the refugee crisis. We have appealed to states to make places available for the humanitarian admission of a further 5,000 refugees displaced from the region.
A significant achievement was reached last week when, under the Irish presidency of the Council of the European Union, the Common European Asylum System was completed and adopted by the European Parliament. While a few states, including Ireland, have not opted into the full package, the common system nonetheless offers the possibility of enhanced protection within the EU. Together with the Charter of Rights, the European Convention on Human Rights and the Refugee Convention, the laws, practices and values are in place for us to do what is right by Syrians seeking protection in Europe.
Looking beyond what we can do for Syrians who make it to Europe to seek asylum, there is a compelling case for active international solidarity with Syria’s neighbours. A very small proportion of those fleeing Syria (less than 2 per cent) have come to Europe. The overwhelming majority of Syrian refugees have sought sanctuary in Lebanon, Jordan, Turkey, Iraq and Egypt.
Lebanon, a country with roughly the same population of Ireland and struggling to maintain its delicate social balance, has already seen its population rise by more than 15 per cent due to the refugee influx. Jordan’s huge existing economic difficulties are exacerbated by the additional population pressure. In this volatile context, humanitarian action is crucial, not only to assist the victims, but also to help maintain regional stability as the conflict increasingly threatens to spill over Syria’s borders. In this context, international support is not only a matter of generosity, but of enlightened self-interest.
Today on World Refugee Day, I renew my call to those in positions of influence to do all they can to seek a political solution and support humanitarian relief.
We must not abandon the people of Syria, and I count on the Government and people of Ireland to do all they can in this regard.
António Guterres is the UN High Commissioner for Refugees and a former prime minister of Portugal