The UN Refugee Agency has reported that: ‘the number of people affected by internal conflict in the Syrian Arab Republic (Syria) is continuing to increase in 2015, with no political solution in sight and military confrontation continuing, the ongoing destruction of infrastructure, along with shifting conflict lines and high levels of insecurity and violence, which continue to restrict humanitarian access.
The deteriorating humanitarian situation in neighbouring Iraq prompted an influx of Iraqi refugees into north-eastern Syria in 2014. The delivery of basic services in many parts of the country has also been stifled by terror groups, and the scale of destruction of homes and livelihoods presents a major obstacle to return and reintegration efforts.
The situation is dire.
On 16 June 2015 UNHCR spokesperson William Spindler stated the following, at a press briefing, at the Palais des Nations in Geneva:
New fighting in northern Syria has seen 23,135 refugees fleeing across the border into Turkey’s Sanliurfa province. Some 70 per cent are women and children. The new arrivals also include so far 2,183 Iraqis from the cities of Mosul, Ramadi and Falujjah.
Most of the new arrivals are Syrians escaping fighting between rival military forces in and around the key border town of Tel Abyad, which was controlled by militants.
UNHCR field staff say most refugees are exhausted and tired and arrive carrying just a few belongings. Some have walked for days.
As of the latest available data, Turkey is hosting 1,772,535 registered Syrian refugees, more than any other in the world.
About 259,000 refugees live in 23 camps set up and managed by the government.
UNHCR spokesperson William Spindle has urged the international community to continue to help shoulder the burden with Turkey and other neighbouring countries.
Australia needs to respond to the United Nation’s plea for international assistance and solidarity in the face of such a dire situation.
There are two members of parliament who agree.
After a field visit study to Jordan, Turkey and Lebanon last November, Phillip Ruddock of the Liberal Party and Chris Hayes of the Labor Party visited refugee camps and Schools full of Syrian refugees, UN and military officials, both members of parliament are now urging action from Australia to do its part in accepting refugees from Iraq and Syria.
The Syrian conflict has reached such a crisis point that Jordan, Turkey and Lebanon are considering closing their borders. Mr Ruddock is calling on the Australian Government to share this burden with Jordan, Turkey and Lebanon who have been overwhelmed by the influx of refugees fleeing neighbouring conflicts.
Mr Ruddock has called on the Australian Government to consider a “Kosovo-type” international solution where Australia would accept refugees – potentially thousands – with the intention of returning them home once safe.
Under Mr Ruddock’s portfolio as immigration minister in 1999, Australia granted temporary protection to about 4000 refugees from Kosovo, most of whom returned home.
Both Liberal MP Ruddock and Labor MP Hayes has joined together on this important issue, showing solidarity, setting politics aside, and prioritising the needs of extremely vulnerable refugees displaced from the Syrian conflict, calling on the Australian Government to also subsidise education for children in refugee camps, giving them an opportunity at a future.
Mr Hayes said such help would prevent children being recruited by Islamic State terrorists.
The Australian Christian Lobby has also highlighted this proposed policy solution, and have interviewed Mr Hayes and Ruddock, which you can find on their website.
The ACL is taking the plight of persecuted religious minorities to the ALP national conference where it is hosting a symposium looking at policy solutions.
I recently had the opportunity to advocate on behalf of the Persecuted in our Federal Parliament, pleading individual cases to the The Hon. Peter Dutton, Minister for Immigration, his Chief of Staff, and Senator Cash – Deputy Immigration Minister’s Chief of Staff.
I partnered with Dealing with Diversity, the Barnabas Fund, and the Pakistani Minority Rights Organisation as the Coalition for the Persecuted to propose that Organisations be able to sponsor persecuted families who have fled their country in fear of a threat to their life, and proposed the we, as a Coalition, in partnership with other organisations, with Churches and with Christian families be able to provide integration support to families who have fled persecution, if the Australian Government was willing to extend to legitimate refugees Humanitarian Visas.
This would, of course, be subject to UNHCR recognition of these families as Refugees.
The model of organisations sponsoring families into a country via humanitarian channels is based on the Canadian Model of Sponsorship Agreement Holder.
Families, Churches and Organisations across Australia are willing and waiting to host families who have fled persecution, who have been recognised by UNHCR as Refugees, and have been accepted by Government through Humanitarian channels.
Minister Dutton, the Minister for Immigration and Border Protection is considering our proposal.
We are very excited about future opportunities for such an initiative, and we are calling you to partner with us in this important work.
We need to advocate on behalf of legitimate refugees, by speaking up of those who cannot speak for themselves, to provide support through prayer and aid, and we need to provide for their practical needs.
If you are willing to go one step further and provide either accommodation, integration support, or mentoring to new refugee families in your community, please contact Christian Faith and Freedom, and they will connect you with Organisations involved in this work.