Press release: Civilians must be protected as Syrian conflict escalates

07 april 2017

Dóchas – The Irish Association of Non-Governmental Development Organisations

 Friday, 7th April 2017

 CIVILIANS MUST BE PROTECTED AS SYRIAN CONFLICT ESCALATES

Dóchas—The Irish Association of Non-Governmental Development Organisations —has today called on the Irish Government to ensure that civilians caught up in the now seven year-long conflict in Syria are protected.

Suzanne Keatinge, Dóchas CEO said, “This week’s horrifying chemical attack, which had young children among its victims, has shocked the world and should remind us of the continued need to strive for a peaceful solution to this conflict. The use of chemical weapons upon civilians is an abhorrent breach of international humanitarian law and it must be condemned in the strongest possible terms.”

To date over 400,000 civilians have died in the Syrian conflict, according to to UN’s Special Envoy for Syria, Staffan de Mistura. There are 13.5 million people currently in need of humanitarian assistance in Syria, with 5 million refugees and 6.3 million people internally displaced, according to the United Nations Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs – OCHA.

“As military offences escalate, we are today calling on Ireland, the EU and the international community to put its weight behind the development of a comprehensive political and humanitarian strategy for the people of Syria. This strategy must include ensuring that international humanitarian law is respected as well as legal obligations to Syrian refugees.  Innocent civilians have to be given the protection they deserve,” said Trócaire’s Director, Eamonn Meehan.

Helen Keogh, Chief Executive of World Vision Ireland said, “We maintain that a political solution will ultimately form the centrepiece of any long-term solution. As one of many aid agencies supporting those affected by the Syria Crisis, we don't claim to have any knowledge or expertise on military strategy or tactics. Our central and unwavering concern remains the plight of families caught up in the crisis.”

Dominic MacSorley, Concern’s CEO said, “The conflict in Syria shows no signs of abating and, if anything, it is intensifying. Tuesday’s barbaric chemical attack only reinforces the need for an urgent and immediate need to end to fighting. The eyes of the world are on the powers that be, including the United Nations Security Council, to make this happen."

“If the regime continues to make ground and ultimately decides to further increase the scale of its bombardment of Idlib, or large parts of it, as it has done with brutal efficiency to various other opposition-held areas of Syria, it will have major consequences for the people on the ground, for aid agencies working there, and for the wider international community. We could be faced with one of the world’s worst humanitarian situations of recent decades as hundreds of thousands of innocent people, who will have no means of escape, will most likely be caught in the middle,” said GOAL’s Safety and Security Advisor for the Middle East, Derek O’Rourke.

Dóchas members welcome the pledge made earlier this week by Minister for Foreign Affairs and Trade, Charlie Flanagan, and Minister of State Joe McHugh to spend at least €25 million in 2017 to support people affected by the Syrian crisis. This support from Irish Aid is vital in assisting Irish NGOs, and others, to provide life-saving assistance to the people in Syria.  But it will be equally important to keep up diplomatic efforts to ensure that civilians are protected in this long-running conflict, and that a long-term peaceful solution is secured.

ENDS

For further information, please contact Aideen Blackwood, Dóchas Communications Officer on 087-9241364 / 01-4053801 or by email aideen@dochas.ie

Notes for the editor:

  • Dóchas is the Irish Association of Non-Governmental Development Organisations. It provides a forum for consultation and cooperation between its members, and a platform for them to speak with a single voice on development issues. For more information, visit: www.dochas.ie.

  • Dóchas members working in Syria or with Syrian refugees include ActionAid, Oxfam, Concern, Trócaire, Goal, Irish Red Cross – as part of larger ICRC family, Tearfund, WorldVision, Misean Cara, Christian Aid, UNICEF, Front Line Defenders, Sightsavers, Plan International Ireland, Voluntary Service International.

  • It is estimated that there are currently 65 million refugees and displaced people worldwide. For more information see: http://www.unhcr.ie/about-unhcr/facts-and-figures-about-refugees