Oxfam Australia is calling for the Australian Government to commit to a time frame for the resettlement of the agreed 12,000 refugees from Syria and Iraq.
Chief Executive Helen Szoke said it’s been almost a year since the Government committed to resettle Syrian and Iraqi refugees in Australia.
“The announcement was made last September and it’s still unclear how many refugees have actually made it to our shores, or what the time frame is to bring them here,” Dr Szoke said.
“We need the Government to urgently outline a time frame for resettlement so we can help those in urgent need of assistance who are bearing the brunt of the conflicts. In Syria, half the pre-conflict population of 22 million Syrians have fled their homes in the past five years and more than 13.5 million people are in need of help.”
Canada has already resettled more than 25,000 in the same time period.
Dr Szoke said Australia must do more to support people caught up in the fighting by: settling the 12,000 Syrian and Iraqi refugees as soon as possible; increasing Australia’s overall annual humanitarian intake to 42,000 by 2020/ 21; and, providing further humanitarian funding to countries hosting large refugee populations such as Jordan, Lebanon and others.
Since the end of July, fighting has intensified in the Syrian city of Aleppo, with reports of attacks on schools and hospitals from the air and indiscriminate shelling and bombardment of civilian areas.
Hundreds of people, many of them children, have reportedly been killed and injured, including 5-year-old Omran Daqneesh, whose dust-covered photo captured international attention on Friday.
“Cut off from supplies and heavily bombarded, the people of Aleppo have borne the brunt of the fighting and have suffered far too much in this bloody conflict. The recent battles have pushed hundreds of thousands of already vulnerable people to the brink,” Dr Szoke said.
“A fully fledged ceasefire observed by all sides in the conflict is necessary to get desperately needed aid into all areas of the city. It will also ensure that essential repairs can be carried out to the water and power supplies.”
“However, the proposed ceasefire must not be a one-off. At a minimum regular, sustained pauses in the conflict are necessary to deal with the scale of the suffering, devastation and destruction in Aleppo,” Dr Szoke said.
Oxfam is helping to provide clean water across battle lines in eastern and western Aleppo as well as elsewhere in Syria.
For interviews with Oxfam staff in Australia or the Middle East, please contact Dylan Quinnell on 0450 668 350 or firstname.lastname@example.org