Charities' open letter to David Cameron: We applaud British aid to Syria, but aid is not enough

 

Dear Prime Minister,

The conflict in Syria has caused the worst humanitarian crisis of our generation and, four years in, is still destroying millions of lives.

At least 3.2 million refugees have fled to neighbouring countries placing these states under enormous strain.

Britain prides itself on a tradition of offering help to those in need. Over the years we have offered refuge to thousands at risk from war or oppression, reaching out to Vietnamese, Ugandan Asians and Kosovars to offer them a home.

Figures released on Thursday will show that Britain has only so far resettled around 100 Syrian refugees, a woefully inadequate number compared to the scale of the crisis.

While we applaud Britain’s generous aid contribution to the crisis, it is clear that aid alone is not enough. Syria’s neighbours are struggling under the weight of this unprecedented crisis and it is time we stopped asking of them what we are not doing ourselves.

We are therefore calling on rich and developed countries to agree collectively to resettle at least 5 per cent of the total Syrian refugee population by the end of 2015. This is a modest but proportionate contribution and Britain’s fair share of that would involve offering hope for up to 10,000 Syrians in that time. That’s less than 0.3% of all the refugees, but would transform, even save, lives.

Life for the majority of Syrian refugees is desperate, but some are simply unable to survive in the region. For torture victims, women who have survived sexual violence, sick children who, without treatment, could die, life outside the war is a daily battle. These are the people Britain has promised to help and we must help more of them.

On 9 December, a pledging conference on resettlement will be hosted by the UN High Commission for Refugees in Geneva. Britain should use this opportunity to take the lead alongside other European countries who have pledged to resettle thousands of refugees from Syria.

In this case, numbers speak louder than words. To do anything other than increase our pledge to thousands, not hundreds, would be to send the wrong message to Syria’s most vulnerable people, and the countries currently hosting them, all desperately asking for our help.

Kate Allen, Director, Amnesty International                                                         

Maurice Wren, Chief Executive, British Refugee Council

Mark Goldring, Chief Executive, Oxfam

Justin Forsyth, Chief Executive, Save the Children

Wayne Myslik, Chief Executive, Asylum Aid

Ratip Alsulaimen, Director, British Syrian Education Centre

Chris Bain, Director, CAFOD

Laurie Lee, Chief Executive, CARE International UK

Paul Valentin, International Director, Christian Aid

Tiffy Allen, National Coordinator, City of Sanctuary

Dr Carol Homden CBE, Director, Coram Children's Legal Centre

Chris Doyle, Director, Council for Arab-British Understanding (CAABU)

Aine O’Brien, Co-Director, Counterpoints Arts

Leigh Daynes, Executive Director, Doctors of the World UK

Beryl Randall, Director, Employability Forum

Aleema Shivji, Chief Executive, Handicap International UK

Mazen Ejbaei, President, Help 4 Syria

Othman Moqbel, Chief Executive, Human Appeal

Fr. Peter Balleis SJ, International Director, Jesuit Refugee Service

Zrinka Bralo, Executive Director, Migrant and Refugee Communities Forum

Shahid Bashir, Deputy Chief Executive, Muslim Hands UK

Dr Mohamed Nasreldin, General Manager, North of England Refugee Service

Jim Steinke, Chief Executive, Northern Refugee Centre

Sally Daghlian OBE, Chief Executive Officer, Praxis Community Projects

Dave Garratt, Chief Executive, Refugee Action

John Wilkes, Chief Executive, Scottish Refugee Council

Emma Williams, Chief Executive, Student Action for Refugees

Ros Holland, Chief Executive, The Boaz Trust

Anna Nolan, The Syria Campaign

Salah Mohamed, Chief Executive, Welsh Refugee Council

Natasha Walter, Women for Refugee Women