The human tragedy of the Syrian conflict
The devastation is dire. Most of the help is rightly being provided in the region – but Leeds is in a great position to help.
1,132 people have called on Leeds City Council to help:
The humanitarian crisis in Syria is one of the most tragic and devastating in recent world history.
We welcome the support the UK has already provided in humanitarian aid and the recent Government announcement that the UK plans offer temporary resettlement in the UK to a few hundred of the most vulnerable refugees.
We would like Leeds City Council to put itself forward as a host for these Syrian refugees.
Leeds is a diverse city, with a strong track record of welcoming refugees. Taking around 100 Syrian refugees would be well within our resources and abilities. We’d be able to use the experience built up over many years to provide a safe home for people fleeing persecution and violence.
130,000 people have been killed and more than 2.3 million people have fled Syria since the conflict began – half of the refugees are children. In addition around 6.5 million people have been displaced internally.
Almost all of the refuges (97%) are being sheltered by countries next to Syria. Lebanon is sheltering almost a million refugees increasing its own population by almost 20%.
UNHCR has appealed for western governments to accept 30,000 of the most vulnerable refugees from the region. This would include women at risk, children who are in need of special assistance, vulnerable older adults and torture survivors who will simply struggle to survive in the harsh conditions in the region. Eighteen countries have agreed to help – including our European neighbours, Australia, Canada, and the USA – taking the UN well on their way towards their target.
Read me about the crisis in a special BBC report.
What the UK is doing
The UK is one of the largest contributors of aid to Syria, giving over £600 million to UN appeals. This is the UK’s largest ever response to a humanitarian crisis. It provides support including food, medical care and relief items for those affected by the fighting in Syria and to refugees in Lebanon, Jordan, Turkey and Iraq.
Caring, fairness and compassion are in top ten of what British people value most (download the National Values Assessment report). It is therefore no surprise that the British public have also responded to the crisis through generous donations to aid organisations. For example, six months after the Disasters Emergency Committee Syria Crisis Appeal was opened on 20 March 2013, the total raised had reached £20m.
This is making a huge difference. The UK has also agreed (announced by Theresa May 29 January 2014) to take a few hundred of the most vulnerable of Syrian refugees but has not signed up to the UNHCR Resettlement and Humanitarian Admission of Syrian Refugees programme.
Theresa May announces UK sanctuary for ‘vulnerable’ Syrians
What about Leeds?
Leeds is one of the most diverse places in the UK outside of London, with people from over 140 countries living, learning and working in our city.
We’ve also been one of the leading cities in supporting and welcoming asylum seekers and refugees both recently and in the past. Leeds most famous refugees are Michael Marks (founder of Marks & Spencer) and Sir Montague Burton founder of Burtons.
Since 2000 Leeds has provided a home to many asylum seekers dispersed to our city while their claims are assessed. As a result many local charities and organisations have become expert at providing support, and many neighbourhoods have become places of welcome.
In the last few years the number of asylum seekers housed in Leeds has fallen dramatically from over 2,000 at its peak to under 400. Leeds Arena would only be half full even if EVERY single person who was granted asylum in the whole of the UK last year took up a seat.
Taking around 100 Syrian refugees would be well within our resources and abilities. We’d be able to use the experience built up over fourteen years to provide an excellent services and support to people fleeing persecution.
What can you do?