More than nine million Syrians have been forced to leave their homes in the last few years. Now, with IS advancing in both Syria and Iraq, the situation is getting worse. “No conflict has ever seen so many deaths, so many refugees, so many internally displaced people in so little time,” said Frej Fenniche, a representative of the Office of the UN High Commissioner for Human Rights (OHCHR), during a hearing on 13 October organised by human rights subcommittee.
Most MEPs agreed that European countries should accept more refugees and give further support to Syria's neighbouring countries.
Opening the hearing, committee chair Elena Valenciano, a Spanish member of the S&D group, stressed the need to increase humanitarian help, as stated in the EP resolution adopted on 18 September.
Mr Fenniche, who is in charge of the Middle East and North Africa section at OHCHR, called on the international community to help out people in Kobani, the Kurdish Syrian town besieged by IS.
In Iraq there are now 5.2 million people in need of humanitarian assistance. Leyla Ferman, the co-president of the Yezidi Federation of Europe, an organisation which represents the Yezidi religious minority in Iraq, called for international support, adding that people won’t survive the winter without help.
Tensions between refugees and host populations increasing
“The crisis goes beyond Syria. It affects also neighbouring countries,” stressed Eduardo Fernandez-Zincke, head of Syria/Iraq team at the European Commission. Because only 15% of the three million registered Syrian refugees live in refugee camps, the vast majority settles in urban settings among the hosting communities. He warned that tensions between refugees and these communities have increased and public systems in these countries are in border of collapse, adding than more than half of the humanitarian aid from the Commission has already beendistributed to Syria´s neighbouring countries supporting the refugee population.
Michele Cavinato, a senior legal officer at the UN Refugee Agency, said “One person out of five in Lebanon is a refugee.” To have a similar percentage in Italy – his home country - it would have to take in 12 million refugees.
It´s crucial that EU supports local public infrastructure and social services as well as empower local civil society initiatives, said Sema Genel, of Support to Life/Diakonie Katastrophenhilfe Istanbul.
Mark Demesmaeker, a Belgian member of the ECR group, called for more action. “The European community is really doing far too little,” he said.
Godelieve Quisthoudt-Rowohl, a German member of the EPP group, asked if Thomas Schmidinger, who worked for the LeEZA humanitarian aid organisation, believed in a fair solution to the conflict. He responded: “I am firmly convinced that the so-called Islamic State has to be beaten militarily,” adding “If NATO or whoever are not prepared to do it themselves, then of course it will have to be the Kurdish fighters on the ground.”