Syria’s nightmare – eight years of war and displacement

 

Sir, – As Syria nears the eighth anniversary of conflict, over 500,000 people have now been killed, 6.5 million people are now refugees, and within Syria itself, more than six million are displaced.

As Irish humanitarian agencies working across Syria, Turkey, Lebanon, and Iraq, we have witnessed first-hand the impact of eight years of war and displacement on every aspect of life. In 2018 alone, Concern, Goal and Trócaire collectively addressed the most urgent needs of close to two million people. We acknowledge the continued and essential support of both the Irish Government and the Irish people in ensuring that we continue to reach those most in need.

However, humanitarian assistance cannot end this conflict. Despite numerous UN resolutions aimed at protecting civilians and bringing about an end to the violence, a number of key UN member states have been more proactive in fuelling this war than in attempting to stop it. The conflict has been characterised by a blatant disregard for human life, bombing of hospitals, schools, public buildings and aid convoys.

Our three organisations will address the Oireachtas Committee on Foreign Affairs and Trade, and Defence tomorrow to brief the members on the situation and expand on what action must be taken by the Irish government. We are calling on the Government and the international community to use its influence and authority to ensure that all parties to the conflict protect civilians and humanitarian workers, allow affected populations access to humanitarian assistance, and ensure the freedom of movement, as well as the right to remain of the affected populations. We must recognise the need to sustain basic services for refugees and for those displaced within Syria whose lives depend on it. Even if the conflict were to end tomorrow it would take years for the country to recover.

We must recognise that many refugees cannot or will not be able to return to Syria due to fears of persecution and other reasons and commit to assisting neighbouring countries with longer-term support.

We must exert greater pressure on all parties and sponsors of the conflict to respect international humanitarian law and to uphold UN Security Council Resolution 2254 calling for a comprehensive ceasefire and peaceful political resolution to the conflict.

At the forthcoming EU/UN Brussels Conference on Supporting the Future of Syria and the Region, which starts on March 12th, Ireland must continue to use its voice and its influence on the international stage to help ensure that the international community meets the needs of the Syrian people.

We simply cannot let this level of human suffering continue. We can and must do more. – Yours, etc,

DOMINIC MacSORLEY,

Chief Executive,

Concern Worldwide;

SIOBHÁN WALSH,

Chief Executive Officer,

Goal;

CAOIMHE de BARRA,

Chief Executive Officer,

Trócaire.