4 Feb 2016

Billions pledged for Syrian refugees as peace talks collapse

A London conference aims to raise over £6 billion to help Syria’s neighbours provide for thousands of refugees. But in Geneva separate peace talks hoping to end the Syrian conflict collapse.

Billions of dollars to help people displaced by the war in Syria have been pledged on the first day of a London conference.

The conference aims to raise £6.2bn to alleviate the suffering of those affected by the war, and reduce the pressure on neighbouring countries who are absorbing unprecedented numbers of refugees.

The EU has pledged over £2.3bn, Germany £1.7bn, the UK £1.1bn and the US £633m.

At the same time as world leaders meet in London parallel peace talks in Geneva collapsed after just two days following the launch of a new offensive by Assad’s forces – backed by Russian air strikes – against rebels in northern Syria.

Turkish Prime Minister Ahmet Davutoglu told the conference that “civilians, schools and hospitals” had been hit during the “air bombardment” and the attacks on the city of Aleppo.

He said that there are already 10,000 refugees on the Turkish border trying to escape the fighting, while up to 70,000 people at the refugee camps and 300,000 in Aleppo could follow.

United Nations Secretary General Ban Ki-moon expressed concern at the way his special envoy Staffan de Mistura had been forced to “pause” the Geneva talks so soon after they had started.

“It is deeply disturbing that the initial steps of the talks have been undermined by the continuous lack of sufficient humanitarian access, and by a sudden increase of aerial bombing and military activities within Syria” Mr Ban said.

He urged that the next few days should be used to “get back to the table, not to secure more gains on the battlefield.”

Quality of life

The UN wants the money raised to be used to increase the quality of life for refugees in Turkey, Lebanon and Jordan, which are struggling to meet the demand of so many people fleeing the conflict.

The King of Jordan told the conference that one quarter of his country’s national budget now went on supporting refugees.

He said Jordan has taken in 1.3m Syrians – the equivalent of the UK taking in the entire population of Belgium. That number is on top of previous refugees from Palestine, the Gulf wars and Christian minority groups. One in five people in Jordan is now a refugee.

Mr Ban said that these nations need assistance to develop job opportunities for the estimated 4.6 million refugees countries, and that a commitment was need to provide every child refugee a school place by 2016.