Wednesday, 4 September 2013

Words of UNHCR's Melissa Fleming on Syria refugee crisis should shock the conscience of the world

Whatever one's views are on the merits or not of military intervention against the Assad regime in Syria, the moving words of Melissa Fleming, Chief of Communications & Spokesperson at UNHCR, speaking on Radio 4's Today Programme on Tuesday 3 September, should be reflected upon:

“The country [Syria] is just haemorrhaging its people and the people are fleeing because of relentless violence. The fighting has spread to all parts of the country; to every town and village practically. There's hardly a safe zone. So, obviously, two million people crossing international borders represents a very, very dire situation back home

"...We can cope, but this is almost unprecedented. It's definitely the worst humanitarian crisis we've seen in at least two decades.

“…So yes, we can cope, we are stretched, we are very concerned about the neighbouring countries. Tiny Lebanon, 4 million population, where now about 15% of its population is Syrian refugees. These countries are buckling under the pressure and the strain of receiving so many people in such a short period of time.

“...Iraq, in the Kurdistan Region, is just building its second camp. Countries are really generously stepping up to the plate, but they're asking us: please international community, UN community, we can't do this alone.”

[Listen to the interview at 1:09.20 onwards]

In my view, having visited the Domiz refugee camp myself, an inspiring facility run by the Kurdistan Regional Government in Iraq with assistance from UNHCR, UNICEF, and other NGOs, it is clear that despite the difficult conditions faced by the refugees, they are the lucky ones. The world has a responsibility to protect and uphold the basic human rights of civilians still remaining in Syria, not just refugees outside the country. To do otherwise, is to treat the symptoms but not the cause.

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