The conflict in Syria has given rise to perhaps the most severe humanitarian crisis since the Second World War. Countries of the region were minor recipients of UK bilateral aid prior to the start of the conflict, yet the Government has responded impressively by contributing over £1.1 billion to the relief effort which receives our full backing. Despite the UK’s relief efforts, we are concerned by the failure of other donors, particularly major European countries, to show similar commitment. This has exacerbated the present refugee crisis. We are seeing a reduction in basic humanitarian assistance and without a substantial increase in funding, the suffering of Syrians will worsen and more will risk their lives making dangerous journeys to secure a future in Europe. The Government should use all available channels to press other donors into making adequate contributions to the fund. We would also like to stress the importance of directing a greater share of funding towards the most vulnerable refugees. This is particularly important for those who reside outside official camps: while they may be the most difficult to reach, they are often the most in need. We received strong representations that Syrian refugees should be allowed to work in neighbouring countries. We recognise the fragilities in host-country labour markets and the inherent difficulties in absorbing Syrian workers. There must be international support for sustainable employment solutions that provide income, dignity and future prospects to Syrian refugees and members of host communities alike. We heard evidence that approaches which seek to provide sustainable solutions to protracted crises are difficult to implement in the context of the current global humanitarian architecture. We urge the Government to use the World Humanitarian Summit in May 2016 to press for an approach to humanitarian crises that better coordinates short-term assistance with longer term development objectives such as education, healthcare and livelihoods. We welcome the Government’s expansion of the Vulnerable Persons Relocation Scheme (VPRS) to resettle Syrian refugees, and commend the commitment to identify and assist the most vulnerable refugees through the scheme. We are concerned that the present processes may fail to include some vulnerable groups such as refugees from the LGBT community, refugees with disabilities, and Christians and other religious minorities. We recommend that the UK Government and the United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees (UNHCR) monitor resettlement referrals and take action if these minorities are insufficiently represented among the cases received. We commend DFID on its efforts to ensure that aid reaches those who are most directly affected by the conflict in Syria itself. With the escalation of the UK’s role in the conflict, DFID should form a central part of planning processes to ensure that the humanitarian situation within the country does not deteriorate further.
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