4 September 2015
This blog will be updated as the situation develops.
Update on Monday 7 September: ActionAid Head of Humanitarian Response Mike Noyes said: “David Cameron’s announcement that the UK will resettle 20,000 Syrian refugees is an improvement on previous commitments. However the weakness is timing. Spreading this over five years will not match the scale of the current crisis."
Friday 4 September: The heartbreaking images of three-year-old Aylan Kurdi, who drowned in the Mediterranean sea along with his mother and older brother as they tried to flee the war in Syria, have come to define the refugee crisis unfolding on Europe's shores.
The photos of Aylan's tiny body, washed up on a Turkish beach, seemed so inexplicable and appalling that they struck a chord with millions of people across Europe and the world.
Aylan's father, Abdullah, buried his two children and his wife today. He described the horror on the boat. “I was holding my wife’s hand,” he told the Turkish news agency Dogan. “But my children slipped through my hands. It was dark and everyone was screaming.”
Fleeing war in Syria
Aylan was just one of the four million people who have fled the war in Syria, which has claimed an estimated 240,000 lives. Nearly all of them are being hosted by neighbouring countries, especially Lebanon, Turkey and Jordan, but for many their situation has now become so desperate that they are risking everything in flimsy boats and on dangerous roads to reach Europe's borders.
Solving the root causes of the conflicts in Syria, Iraq and other war-torn countries is the long term answer, and must be part of the picture. But the international community, including the UK, cannot ignore the immediate plight of those in need. Our common humanity demands of us compassion, support and protection to those in fear now.
ActionAid is calling on the British government to resettle at least 10,000 refugees and provide an urgent timetable to deliver this. The promise that the government made today to take in a reported 4,000 people is nowhere near enough: we need to make a real difference and give them hope in the most desperate circumstances. 4,000 people is still only 0.1 percent of the total number of Syrian refugees, and it equates to only six refugees per parliamentary constituency.
What ActionAid is doing to help
ActionAid has been working with Syrian refugees in Jordan and Lebanon since 2013. So far, we have reached 90,000 people with clothing and other essential supplies, and supported children to continue their education. We are continuing to support extremely vulnerable children and their families across the region.
As the refugee crisis grows by the day, we are urgently assessing how we can scale up our response to meet it. Our humanitarian assessment team is being deployed to support the ActionAid Greece office, to review how best to respond to the needs of refugees reaching Europe and do everything we can to help the most vulnerable people.
Photo: NewZulu/Vladimir Zivojinovic