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Minister Costello highlights plight of Syrian refugees in address to the Seanad

Human rights, Press Releases, Middle East and North Africa, 2012

Minister for Trade and Development Joe Costello today underscored the plight of civilians caught up in the violence in Syria, some 1.2 million of whom have been forced to flee their homes.

Addressing the Seanad this evening following his recent visit to Za’atari refugee camp in Jordan, Minister Costello said:

“During my recent visit to Jordan I witnessed the devastating humanitarian consequences that the crisis has had on innocent civilians and the pressures that it is placing on host countries such as Jordan.

Almost 20,000 people have been killed, some 2.5 million people are in desperate need of assistance and over 1.2 million Syrians have been displaced within their own country. There are over a quarter of a million Syrians now seeking refuge in neighbouring countries, more than half of whom are children.

It is now a race against time: the numbers of refugees is escalating as the violence intensifies. Recent reports have described indiscriminate shelling of densely populated areas including the utterly unacceptable use of air strikes against civilian areas and random targeting of innocent civilians.

This is a humanitarian crisis arising from an underlying political conflict. Over the last 18 months, our efforts and those of international partners have been directed at ending the violence and repression inflicted upon the people of Syria. We must continue to promote a peaceful settlement with the ultimate aim of political transition in Syria. Ireland is fully supportive of the newly appointed UN/Arab League Joint Special Representative, Lakhdar Brahimi, and his efforts to negotiate a ceasefire and chart a political path forward. 

In parallel, international pressure needs to be maintained to bring an end to the violence and compel the Syrian regime to stop its bloody repression. Ireland, along with our international partners, has been advocating for a strong UN Security Council Resolution.  I believe that this is now long overdue.

As the humanitarian situation deteriorates, there is urgent need for food, medical care and shelter.  Ireland has responded swiftly to the humanitarian crisis in Syria and the neighbouring countries.  As early as March this year, I authorised €500,000 in emergency funding to assist vulnerable civilians. Following my visit in August, I announced an additional €1.6 million to provide life-saving assistance, including food, tents, mattresses, kitchen sets, water tanks and jerry cans.  Since March of this year Ireland has provided €2.1 million in humanitarian assistance to assist the people of Syria whose lives have been torn apart by this appalling conflict.”