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Syria has to be foreign policy priority

By Susan Gately - 14 March, 2016

Solidarity with SyriaMarking the fifth anniversary of the beginning of the conflict in Syria, Ireland’s three largest humanitarian agencies have appealed to the new Dáil to make a political solution in Syria a foreign policy priority.

Concern, GOAL and Trócaire said Ireland has a valuable role in play in securing a political agreement to end the ongoing conflict in Syria.

Tomorrow marks the fifth anniversary of the beginning of the Syrian conflict.

Since 15 March 2011 approximately 470,000 people have lost their lives and over 11 million have fled their homes. The Syrian conflict has resulted in the worst humanitarian crisis in a generation.

Speaking on the eve of the anniversary, representatives of the three humanitarian agencies called for greater political engagement towards finding a solution to the Syrian war.

“The level of suffering the people of Syria have endured for five years is incomprehensible. Almost twice the entire population of the island of Ireland have had to abandon their homes.”

“Trócaire has been responding to this crisis since 2012, working with local partners in Syria, Lebanon, Greece, Jordan, Macedonia, Croatia and Serbia to deliver humanitarian aid to Syrian civilians,” said Éamonn Meehan, Executive Director of Trócaire.

He said the very fact that Trócaire was responding to the conflict in seven countries across two continents highlighted the magnitude of the crisis.

“This crisis will not end until a political solution is put in place. Through the EU, Ireland has a valuable role to play in helping to secure an end to this nightmare. Engaging fully in the Syrian crisis, including pushing for an agreed EU approach to the refugee crisis, must be a key foreign policy priority of the new government.”



GOAL’s humanitarian response programme began in Syria in late 2012, and currently supports over one million beneficiaries within Idlib province in north west Syria.

“Despite daily air strikes, barrel bombs and continued ground fighting affecting our areas of work, GOAL Syria continues to reach hundreds of thousands of people every day through our 400 strong Syrian staff on the ground,” said Barry Andrews, CEO of GOAL, who described the crisis in Syria as the “greatest humanitarian crisis of this century”.

He said the challenge in GOAL was to be “unstinting” in bringing this suffering to the attention of policy makers and to members of the public. “We owe this duty to our beneficiaries, to our mandate but also to our incredibly brave staff working in Syria.”

According to Concern, while Syria has experienced a “breath-taking” exodus of its population in the last five years, 13.5 million people in need of assistance remain within its borders.

4.5 million of these are living “tenuous, insecure lives often beyond the reach of the aid agencies” according to Dominic MacSorley, CEO of Concern Worldwide. “This is the moral and humanitarian challenge of our time.”

Concern has been responding to this ever-escalating refugee crisis in Syria’s neighbouring countries, Lebanon and Turkey, and inside Syria itself since 2013.

“When they fled, they thought it would be for only a few months but, now, five years on, the majority of refugees are totally dependent on humanitarian assistance. While hope is running out for many, we have no right to give up on the prospect of peace. The people of Syria need an end to the nightmare,” he added.

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