According to recent figures, more than 1.6 million Syrian refugees are hosted in foreign countries. The conflict in Syria is placing unprecedented strain on communities, infrastructure and services in these host countries. In Lebanon, the number of refugees has now reached half a million with thousands more Syrians arriving each week, risking destabilising the country. With no official refugee camps for the Syrian refugees, Lebanese host communities are bearing a large share of the burden in the country. Their generosity and the pressures they face have been largely ignored by the media. Rushanara therefore decided to visit Lebanon with World Vision to see for herself the plight of refugees and the impact of the continued outpouring of Syrians on Lebanese host communities.
Upon her return, Rushanara urgently questioned the UK government on its financial contribution to the United Nations’ £3.2 billion Appeal for humanitarian aid to deal with the humanitarian situation in Syria and neighbouring countries.
She asked the Secretary of State for International Development:
“I wish to declare an interest: I have just returned from a visit to Lebanon courtesy of World Vision where I witnessed first-hand the impact of the heavy influx of Syrian refugees in that country. The number of refugees in Lebanon has now reached half a million and is set to rise to over a million by Christmas. Last week, the UN appealed for £3.2billon to deal with this humanitarian emergency. Can the Minister tell the House how much the UK Government will contribute toward this appeal?”
The Secretary of State for International Development answered:
“I thank the hon. Lady for that question. We are looking now at what we can do to continue playing a leading role in providing humanitarian support, but I think that all Members of the House would agree that we need to put pressure on other countries in the region, and the international community more broadly, to step up to the plate and provide support, and we need to make sure that they fulfil commitments that they have already made.”
Following International Development Oral Questions, Rushanara added:
“Syrian refugees in Lebanon who have fled atrocious conditions in Syria are currently living in dismal conditions, packed in informal settlements, garages or tiny apartments. They now account for nearly 20 per cent of the population in Lebanon and host communities are stretched to breaking point with tensions rising due to a lack of jobs, food and shelter. Urgent action is needed to increase assistance to Syrian refugees and support Lebanese host communities who are dealing with the arrival of thousands of Syrians each week. It is estimated that there will be over one million Syrian refugees in Lebanon by December 2013. ”