Berlin Conference on Syria refugee response must deliver as harsh winter approaches
Camilla Jelbart Mosse Syria Crisis Campaign Manager
28th Oct 2014
Yasmine, 23, splashes her face with steaming hot water from Oxfam's newly installed taps. As winter approaches, and temperatures are set to plummet below freezing, a little hot water goes a long way to keeping people warm through the cold months. As the crisis nears four years, Syrian refugees, like Yasmine, living in makeshift camps in Lebanon will be facing yet another freezing winter and struggling to survive the storm while hope of returning to Syria fades. Yasmine smiles, "Before we used to take cold showers during winter but now the situation is better."
With over three million refugees now having crossed into countries around Syria, governments from around the world gathered today in Berlin for a conference on the response to the refugee crisis. The situation is becoming untenable for Syria's neighbours and vulnerable people are paying the price. We need to see clear, practical commitments in Berlin today to help refugees like Yasmine, and host communities alike.
Nearly four years into the conflict, the impact of the crisis on Syria's neighbours' economy, infrastructure, education and health systems is palpable and governments are increasingly closing their borders to more people seeking sanctuary. It is essential that other govermnents step up to offer long-term financial support to host countries both to meet immediate humanitarian needs and support development approaches into the future. They should also provide a life-line to refugees in need through resettlement in countries outside the immediate region.
Today's conference in Berlin must be a first step on the road to a clear international agreement that will help countries affected by the mass exodus of refugees and ensure that the rights of vulnerable individuals are respected. Everyone who needs to must be able to flee to safety from the conflict.
Germany has already agreed to accept 26,400 refugees from Syria but now more countries need to follow suit. Oxfam has called on wealthy nations to accept between them at least 5% of the projected refugee population: this is well within their capacity and - while still a fraction of the whole - would make a significant impact on people's lives.
For the sake of people like Yasmine, there must be a step-change in the international response to the crisis - crucially including redoubled efforts to hasten a political solution or refugees will be forced to live outside Syria for years to come.