The Syria crisis has reached another tragic milestone, with the United Nations refugee agency today announcing the number of Syrian refugees has passed two million.
Oxfam Australia’s chief executive Dr Helen Szoke said the latest development was a reminder that urgent action was needed to find a political solution to the ongoing conflict.
“Two million refugees is a truly alarming number of people who have fled their country because of war. We are appalled this landmark has been reached,” Dr Szoke said.
“It means one in 10 Syrian people are now refugees. It’s the equivalent of nearly half the population of Sydney or Melbourne being forced to leave their home for fear of their lives.
“Enough is enough. A generation of Syrians is paying too high a price in this conflict. They have been seriously let down by the international community, which has failed to prioritise a political solution to the conflict. That must change.”
Dr Szoke said it was vital the Australian Government pursue all avenues to unite the international community behind a peaceful political settlement of the Syria crisis.
“This month, the Australian Government will have the ear of the world’s most powerful leaders at the G20 Summit and through Australia’s presidency of the UN Security Council.
“Australia must not miss this rare opportunity to push world leaders – especially US President Barack Obama and Russian President Vladimir Putin – to commit to long-promised peace talks as soon as possible.
“Every day we delay the Syria peace talks, another 5000 Syrian refugees cross the borders into neighbouring countries including Jordan and Lebanon – often traumatised and in need of the basics such as food, water and shelter.”
Oxfam said the Australian Government has given generously to the Syria humanitarian response, providing $100 million since the beginning of the crisis in 2011, and should use its own example to encourage other countries to give more.
But with the UN appeals to support the Syrian people still only 41 per cent funded, and with no end to the crisis in sight, the aid agency says Australia needs to be prepared to help meet increased needs beyond the next few months.
Notes to editors: Oxfam’s Syria response campaign manager, Australian aid worker Claire Seaward, is available for interview from Jordan.
To donate to Oxfam Australia’s Syria Crisis Appeal, go to www.oxfam.org.au or phone 1800 034 034
For interviews or more information contact Oxfam Australia Media Coordinator Chee Chee Leung on 0412 560 584 or firstname.lastname@example.org