Motion for a resolution - B8-0139/2015Motion for a resolution

MOTION FOR A RESOLUTION on the humanitarian crisis in Iraq and Syria, in particular in the IS context

9.2.2015 - (2015/2559(RSP))

to wind up the debate on the statement by the Vice-President of the Commission / High Representative of the Union for Foreign Affairs and Security Policy
pursuant to Rule 123(2) of the Rules of Procedure

Alyn Smith, Barbara Lochbihler, Karima Delli, Igor Šoltes on behalf of the Verts/ALE Group

See also joint motion for a resolution RC-B8-0136/2015

Procedure : 2015/2559(RSP)
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European Parliament resolution on the humanitarian crisis in Iraq and Syria, in particular in the IS context

The European Parliament,

–       having regard to its previous resolutions on Iraq and Syria,

–       having regard to the Foreign Affairs Council conclusions on Iraq and Syria, in particular those of 15 December 2014,

–       having regard to the European Council conclusions on Iraq and Syria of 30 August 2014,

–       having regard to the statements by the Vice-President of the Commission / High Representative of the Union for Foreign Affairs and Security Policy (VP/HR) on Iraq and Syria,

–       having regard to UN Security Council resolutions 2139 (2014), 2165 (2014) and 2170 (2014) and UN Human Rights Council resolution S-22/1,

–       having regard to the UN Report of the Independent International Commission of Inquiry on the Syrian Arab Republic, entitled ‘Rule of Terror: Living under ISIS in Syria’, of 14 November 2014,

–       having regard to the statements by the Secretary-General of the United Nations on Iraq and Syria,

–       having regard to the recent statements by the United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees, António Guterres, on the situation of Syrian and Iraqi refugees,

–       having regard to the NATO Summit Declaration of 5 September 2014,

–       having regard to the EU Guidelines on international humanitarian law, on human rights defenders, and on the promotion and protection of freedom of religion or belief,

–       having regard to the conclusions of the International Conference on Peace and Security in Iraq, held in Paris on 15 September 2014, and the subsequent first ministerial-level plenary session for the 60-country Global Coalition to Counter the Islamic State of Iraq and the Levant (ISIL), held in Brussels on 3 December 2014,

–       having regard to the International Conference on the Syrian Refugee Situation – Supporting Stability in the Region, held in Berlin on 28 October 2014, and to the UNHCR-convened ministerial-level pledging conference of 9 December 2014 on resettlement and other forms of admission of Syrian refugees,

–       having regard to the Partnership and Cooperation Agreement (PCA) between the European Union and its Member States, of the one part, and the Republic of Iraq, of the other, and to its legislative resolution of 17 January 2013 on that partnership[1],

–       having regard to the Joint Communication of 6 February 2015 by the Vice-President of the Commission / High Representative of the Union for Foreign Affairs and Security Policy and the European Commission, entitled ‘Elements for an EU regional strategy for Syria and Iraq as well as the Da’esh threat’,

–       having regard to Rule 123(2) of its Rules of Procedure,

A.     whereas the conflict in Syria, which is entering its fifth year, has led to a humanitarian catastrophe of an unprecedented scale since World War II; whereas according to UN figures, the conflict has led to the deaths of more than 200 000 people, a majority of whom were civilians, and to more than 7.6 million people being internally displaced, and has left more than 12.2 million Syrians in desperate need of assistance inside Syria; whereas 212 000 people are still besieged – 185 000 by government forces and 26 500 by opposition forces; whereas more than 3.5 million Syrians have fled their country – mainly to Lebanon, Turkey, Jordan, Iraq and Egypt – and now represent the largest refugee population under the UNHCR’s mandate worldwide;

B.     whereas the humanitarian situation in Iraq is continuing to deteriorate and needs are growing; whereas more than 5.2 million people are in need of urgent humanitarian assistance and more than 2.1 million Iraqis are internally displaced; whereas there are 3.6 million people living in areas controlled by IS, 2.2 million of whom are in urgent need of aid, and whereas these people are particularly difficult to reach; whereas over 500 000 Iraqis have fled eastern Iraq since the summer of 2014; whereas Iraq is also hosting over 233 000 Syrian refugees;

C.     whereas IS has committed a wide range of abuses, violations and crimes against populations in Northern Iraq and Syria; whereas these grave acts include mass executions and ethnic cleansing, amounting to acts of genocide against specific religious groups and notably Shiites, forced conversions, forcible displacements, stoning and amputation, enforced disappearance and torture; whereas IS has particularly targeted ethnic and religious minorities such as Shiite, Yazidi, Christian, Shabak, Kaka’e and Sabaean communities; whereas the UN has also reported systematic sexual violence and enslavement of women and children, recruitment of children for suicide bombings, sexual and physical abuse and torture;

D.     whereas war crimes and other violations of international humanitarian and human rights law by the other parties to the conflict, notably the Assad regime, continue to be reported daily and on a massive scale;

E.     whereas the conflict in Iraq killed at least 12 000 people and injured 22 000 in 2014 alone; whereas the conflict in Syria has killed over 200 000 people since 2011;

F.     whereas the Iraqi Government’s attack on largely peaceful protests in the western province of Anbar, such as the killing of 90 protesters in April 2013 in Hawija and 17 protesters in December 2013 in Ramadi, helped trigger an uprising against it; whereas Iraqi Government-backed Shia militias headed security forces in leading the fight against IS and, in their enhanced role, carried out kidnappings, summary executions, torture, and mass displacements of thousands of families with impunity; whereas the government has not held anyone accountable for the abuses by these militias or its own forces;

G.     whereas the military positions on the ground in Syria and Iraq have not dramatically evolved since the launch of the airstrikes by the US-led international coalition against IS in August 2014; whereas IS continues to control natural resources and territory in large swathes of Iraq and Syria; whereas IS has lost ground in the town of Kobane/Ein el Arab, parts of Mossul and a number of towns in Al Anbar province;

H.     whereas the Syrian regime continues to refrain from targeting IS strategic positions;

I.      whereas the UN-brokered efforts, led by UN Special Envoy to Syria, Staffan de Mistura, to negotiate a political settlement to the Syrian conflict have so far failed to make any tangible progress;

J.      whereas the UNHCR has stated that almost 50 % of all Syrians have lost their homes and 40 % of the refugees are forced to endure dramatically sub-standard living conditions, with long-term consequences for the education of two million children refugees; whereas, according to the UN, three out of four Syrians live in poverty and the unemployment rate is over 50 %; whereas two-thirds of the Syrian refugees in Jordan are living below the poverty line and 55 % of the refugees in Lebanon live in sub-standard shelters; whereas violence and discrimination against refugees has risen in the host countries;

K.     whereas the UNHCR has appealed to states to make at least 130 000 places available for resettlement of Syrian refugees by 2016; whereas the EU Member States have pledged some 36 000 places;

L.     whereas the UN High Commissioner for Refugees has warned that the countries hosting Syrian refugees, particularly Lebanon and Jordan, ‘have witnessed a dramatic increase in population, which has overwhelmed national infrastructure, schools and hospitals; strained water and energy supplies; exerted a heavy toll on public finance and created economic hardship for many among the host population’;

M.    whereas the humanitarian needs are growing exponentially, yet UN agencies and other humanitarian organisations are facing chronic critical funding shortages; whereas the UNHCR’s appeal for a regional refugee response is only 51 % funded as of January 2015, with a budget shortfall of USD 1.8 billion; whereas the UN World Food Programme was forced to temporarily suspend essential food aid to 1.7 million Syrian refugees in December 2014 owing to lack of funding;

N.     whereas the EU has mobilised more than EUR 3.1 billion for relief and recovery assistance to Syrians in their country and to the refugees in host countries since the beginning of the conflict; whereas the EU Civil Protection Mechanism has also been activated to facilitate the rapid deployment of assistance and expertise to the region;

O.     whereas UN High Commissioner for Refugees António Guterres stated on 29 January 2015 that only two countries in Europe – Sweden and Germany – have so far responded at the level that was necessary to meet the needs of the Syrian people; whereas Mr Guterres has called for the EU to consider imposing a quota system in order to ensure a more equitable handling of asylum seekers;

P.     whereas the UNHCR has strengthened its winter assistance, launching a USD 206 million winter programme to help millions of vulnerable people in the region; whereas despite the efforts made, many refugees are forced to live in unfinished buildings and inadequate shelters that expose them to sub-zero temperatures, heavy snow and strong winds; whereas approximately 740 000 internally displaced Iraqis are sheltering in sub-standard housing and the UNHCR is seeking to reach 600000 of the displaced persons with winter support in Iraq;

Q.     whereas children make up 52 % of the refugee population in the region, with nearly 2 million of them as refugees; whereas UNICEF is delivering winter assistance in Syria, Iraq, Lebanon, Jordan and Turkey to 916 000 of the 1.3 million targeted children; whereas UNICEF and the World Food Programme have launched a winter cash assistance campaign in January 2015; whereas according to Kyung-wha Kang, UN Assistant Secretary-General for Humanitarian Affairs, UN operations are suffering from a lack of funding, with just 39 % of the required USD 2.3 billion having been received; whereas the UNHCR has stated that it remains very difficult to operate within the areas to provide civilians and refugees with the aid they need;

1.      Expresses its utmost concern about the humanitarian tragedy, which is still unfolding in Iraq and Syria at an unprecedented level in recent history;

2.      Reiterates its strong condemnation of the continued and widespread human rights abuses and other violations committed by state and non-state actors in both countries;

3.      Recognises that IS violence is one among many factors contributing to the humanitarian crisis in Syria, Iraq and the wider region; calls in that regard on the international community to support a political process to alleviate the suffering of millions of people from all religious and ethnic groups;

4.      Stresses that, despite the threat posed by armed and extremist groups on all sides, the EU response to the humanitarian needs in Syria and Iraq should remain principled and in line with the European Consensus on Humanitarian Aid and international humanitarian law; calls on the EU in its response not to subordinate emergency assistance to a political agenda premised on counter-terrorism;

5.      Calls on all the parties to the conflict to comply with international humanitarian law, ensure that civilians are protected, have unhindered access to medical facilities and humanitarian assistance, and are able to leave areas affected by violence safely and with dignity;

6.      Remains gravely concerned by the threat posed by IS to the populations of Iraq and Syria and beyond; denounces the extremist ideology and the atrocities committed by IS in areas under its control, including summary executions, egregious violence against religious and ethnic minorities, the brutal subjugation of women and girls and the killing of hostages;

7.      Stresses that the emergence of IS as a major regional actor and as the prime focus of international attention since the summer of 2014 should not obfuscate the essential and continued responsibility of other players in the current humanitarian catastrophe, including first and foremost the Assad regime, but also the former Iraqi Government, as well as that of other local militias and warring parties;

8.      Reiterates its condemnation, in the harshest terms, of the crimes perpetrated by the Syrian Government on its population; condemns Syria’s use of chemical weapons, notably chlorine gas, against civilians and opposition groups, including in April 2014 in violation of its previous international commitments;

9.      Calls on the Syrian Government to immediately cease the use of incendiary weapons across Syria; calls on the signatory states, including Russia and China, to call on Syria to respect the international protocol on the ban of incendiary weapons;

10.    Condemns the extensive use by the Syrian Government of cluster munitions on its population, violating UN General Assembly resolution 68/182 of December 2013, which was supported by 140 states;

11.    Condemns Syria’s persistent dropping of large numbers of unguided high explosive barrel bombs on civilians in defiance of UN Security Council (UNSC) resolution 2139 of 22 February 2013, such as the Syrian Government’s aerial attacks on Aleppo that have killed at least 3557 civilians in 2014 alone;

12.    Condemns Syria’s siege strategy to effectively starve its civilian population into submission in order to retake territory, notably in Homs, the Yarmouk camp in South Damascus, Daraya, Eastern Ghouta, Moadameiya, affecting 200 000 civilians and violating UNSC resolution 2139 (2013) which demands that all parties ‘immediately lift the sieges of populated areas’;

13.    Calls on IS, Jabhat al-Nusra, the Iraqi Government, Kurdish authorities in Syria and the Syrian Government to release all detainees in arbitrary detention; calls on the Syrian Government to release the well-over 85 000 detainees it currently holds since the onset of the Syrian revolution of 2011 in conditions amounting to forced disappearance ;

14.    Condemns IS executions and torture as much as it condemns the killing of several thousands of detainees in custody in 2014 in Syria’s military hospitals, as evidenced by Syrian military defectors and human rights NGOs;

15.    Condemns the use of child soldiers by IS as well as the YPG, the Kurdish police and military forces in Syria, and all other parties including the Syrian Government;

16.    Welcomes the leading role played by the EU and its Member States in the international humanitarian response; remains alarmed, however, that the humanitarian needs of the populations continue to outpace the international response; calls on the international community to further increase its humanitarian efforts, particularly in the context of a severe winter; urges all donors to fulfil their promises and to deliver assistance in a swift manner; calls for an increase of the EU’s contributions to the UN’s humanitarian programmes and to strengthen their cooperation with international organisations;

17.    Welcomes the EU’s new strategy ‘Elements for an EU regional strategy for Syria and Iraq as well as the Daesh threat’, notably its package of EUR 1 billion to ‘help restore peace and security that have been devastated by terrorism and violence for too long’ according to the VP/HR; underlines the fact that the conflicts in the region should not be first perceived as part of the fight against terrorism, but rather as the fight for the legitimate aspirations of the peoples of the region, expressed in 2011 as ‘bread, freedom, social justice and human dignity’;

18.    Supports the EU’s focus on education and educational training in its new strategy; expresses concern that this is being viewed primarily as a counter-terrorist measure, whereas education is a right and an important tool for the protection of children, both girls and boys;

19.    Seeks clarification about the EU’s plans for enhanced counter-terrorism cooperation with countries in the region, as proposed in its new regional strategy for Syria and Iraq, and the definition and implications of failure of ‘partner countries’ capacity to meet benchmarks on human rights and civil and political freedoms’;

20.    Supports the efforts of the VP/HR to enhance coordination of the assistance provided by EU institutions and the Member States; calls for the reinforcement of the EU office in Gaziantep, Turkey and the opening of an EU office in Erbil, northern Iraq, in order to improve the effectiveness and visibility of EU action on the ground, including better coordination of the humanitarian and development assistance and support to independent civil society organisations, notably independent media organisations;

21.    Calls on the Member States to heed the plea of the UN High Commissioner for Refugees for much stronger commitment to burden-sharing, allowing Syrian refugees to find protection beyond the immediate neighbouring region through resettlement, humanitarian admission schemes, simplified family reunification or more flexible visa regulations; calls on the Member States to expedite the processing of the asylum applications from the increasing number of Syrian refugees who are fleeing the zones of conflict; underlines the particular need to address those facing specific vulnerabilities, such as serious medical needs, sexuality, gender and disability; calls for the EU to address the tragic issue of the deadly journeys across the Mediterranean; calls on the Member States to ensure that at least 5 % of refugees from Syria are able to access protection outside the region in 2015, and that the most vulnerable refugees be prioritised and be guaranteed their full rights, in line with the 1951 Refugee Convention;

22.    Condemns the Member States’ systematic violation of the Geneva Convention as regards Syrian refugees, notably by means of sometimes violent pushbacks of Syrian asylum seekers, , at land and sea borders by Bulgaria, Spain, Greece and Cyprus, without allowing them to lodge asylum claims;

23.    Calls on the Jordanian Government to halt its forcible deportations of and entry denials to Palestinian refugees coming from Syria;

24.    Deplores the fact that all four neighbouring countries of Syria have denied Syrians secure legal status;

25.    Condemns the consistent thwarting of attempts to deliver humanitarian aid in Syria and calls on all parties to the conflict to abide by international humanitarian and human rights law, to facilitate the provision of humanitarian aid and assistance through all possible channels, including across borders and conflict lines, and to ensure the safety of all medical personnel and humanitarian workers in line with the various UNSC resolutions;

26.    Deplores the Syrian Government’s continued non-compliance with the UNSC resolution of 2 February 2014 demanding safe, unhindered humanitarian access across Syria’s borders and conflict lines; finds it deeply regrettable that the UNSC resolution of 14 July 2014, authorising UN agencies and implementing partners to deliver aid across Syria’s border without government permission, is still being violated by the Syrian Government;

27.    Is convinced that immediate humanitarian assistance and protection needs to be complemented by long-term strategies in support of the socioeconomic rights and livelihood opportunities of returnees and internally displaced persons, with a view to empowering them to choose durable solutions that suit their needs;

28.    Underlines the need to prioritise and expand the provision of assistance, including specialised medical services and psychological support to women and girls;

29.    Expresses particular concern at the fate of the besieged and starved Palestinian refugee camp of Yarmouk in South Damascus, Syria, where over 18 000 Palestinian refugees have been denied humanitarian access for most of the period since 2012, and have been under siege by Syrian Government-controlled militiamen;

30.    Reiterates its condemnation of violence and murders against LGBT people in the region, which have been taking place with total impunity; points out that LGBT people in the region are in a particularly vulnerable position, given the limited family and community support and government protection available to them and the fact that their safety remains at risk in refugee communities and certain host societies; calls on the Iraqi Government, the EU delegation to Iraq and the embassies of EU Member States in the region to provide protection for LGBT people and to expedite the direct resettlement of those LGBT individuals fleeing on account of safety concerns;

31.    Remains concerned by the use and exploitation of oil fields and related infrastructure by IS and associated groups using mobile oil refineries, which enables IS to generate more income, and urges all states to uphold UNSC resolutions 2161 (2014) and 2170 (2014), which condemn any trade, direct or indirect, with IS and associated groups; calls for the EU to tighten sanctions in order to prevent IS from selling oil; calls for the EU to impose sanctions on all those (governments and public or private companies) involved in the transport, transformation, refinement and commercialisation of oil extracted in IS-controlled areas, together with strict controls on financial flows in order to prevent economic activity and exploitation of tax havens on the part of IS;

32.    Calls for a tighter control of equipment shipped to Iraq via Turkey that is used to build mobile oil refineries, and for better coordination between Turkish, Kurdistan Regional Government and Iraqi authorities to fight against oil smuggling in the region; welcomes the steps announced in August 2014 by Kuwait to prevent IS funding by individuals at mosques and channel humanitarian aid through established charity organisations; reiterates its call for a full enforcement of EU sanctions on oil revenues to the Syrian Government; welcomes the EU ban on fuel exports to Syria’s Air Force since December 2014;

33.    Stresses that IS represents first and foremost the consequence rather than the cause of the current convulsion which is engulfing the Middle East and beyond; recalls that IS has emerged from a bedrock of protracted human rights violations and impunity, crony capitalism, pervasive corruption, sectarianism, marginalisation and discrimination against entire groups, notably socially-disadvantaged Arab Sunnis, as well as a long history of external manipulation and intervention by regional and Western actors; believes therefore that any effective response by the international community to the nefarious acts and nature of IS requires a collected, inclusive and strategic plan of action, couched in international legality;

34.    Stresses that the EU’s regional strategy to combat IS should properly identify and focus on the profound socio-economic, cultural and political roots of the IS phenomenon, as well as be connected to the promotion of a long-term political solution to the Syrian conflict, to the support for an inclusive, accountable and democratic Iraq, and should take into account the interests of all the populations concerned;

35.    Reiterates its call for a sustainable solution to the Syrian conflict through an inclusive and Syrian-led political process on the basis of the Geneva communiqué of June 2012; finds it regrettable that that the so-called ‘Geneva 2’ Conference of January 2014 did not produce any tangible results;

36.    Expresses its full support for the efforts of UN Special Envoy to Syria in aiming for local cease-fires, and the implementation of humanitarian pauses by all sides to allow the delivery of humanitarian assistance;

37.    Remains convinced that there can be no sustainable peace in Syria and Iraq without accountability for the crimes committed by all sides during the conflict; finds it deeply regrettable that Russia and China vetoed a UN Security Council resolution that would have referred the situation in Syria to the International Criminal Court on May 22 2014 while the other 13 members of the UNSC supported the referral; reiterates its call for the referral of the situation in Syria to the International Criminal Court and supports all initiatives in this direction;

38.    Believes that the success and attraction of IS and other jihadist groups, including for several thousand European jihadist fighters, is also a result of erroneous policies pursued by Western and regional players, starting from support for groups propagating extremist, violent interpretations of Salafist ideology, the war of aggression against Iraq to the severe, widespread and systematic human rights violations perpetrated against Sunni Arabs by the Syrian regime enjoying a de facto impunity since the onset of the Syrian revolution of 2011;

39.    Calls for a new European policy of open recognition of past mistakes, including torture rendition programmes and complicity in human rights violations perpetrated in the context of the so-called ‘war on terror’ as well as an active policy to revise various forms of discrimination against its Muslim population and to counter the recent wave of anti-Muslim sentiment in Europe;

40.    Considers that the dramatic instability throughout the EU’s southern neighbourhood demands unprecedented political steps by the EU, and that the Kurdish region and notably northern Iraq take on a particular importance as a possible anchor of stability and de-escalation, and be strengthened in this role; calls equally for a policy revision on Saudi Arabia in order to urge the government to initiate fundamental reforms of the state doctrine and the state institutions as well as a stop to all support for violent Islamist groups by individuals in Saudi Arabia; fully supports all EU efforts to solve the longstanding nuclear conflict with Iran and believes that the Palestinian Authority should be supported in every effort to raise the level of recognition of statehood atinternational level;

41.    Instructs its President to forward this resolution to the Vice-President of the Commission / High Representative of the Union for Foreign Affairs and Security Policy, the Council, the Commission, the EU Special Representative for Human Rights, the governments and parliaments of the Member States, the Government and Council of Representatives of Iraq, the Regional Government of Kurdistan, the Secretary-General of the United Nations, the United Nations Human Rights Council and all the parties involved in the conflict in Syria.