Syrian refugee crisis Contents

Conclusions and recommendations

Host community pressures

1.We strongly commend DFID for setting an exemplary standard in its commitment to funding humanitarian assistance to address the Syrian crisis. We are very concerned at the lack of financial support from other donors. Wealthy countries again committed to the goal of spending 0.7% of Gross National Income (GNI) on Official Development Assistance (ODA) this summer at the Financing for Development conference in Addis Ababa, but are not being held to account for delivery against this commitment. This is a serious problem in the face of increasing humanitarian needs. Evidence indicates a link between the reduction in assistance and increases in dangerous onward migration from the Middle East to Europe. (Paragraph 13)

2.We urge the Government to apply more pressure on other donors to meet their 0.7% commitment and direct an appropriate proportion of ODA towards the Syrian crisis. Efforts should be focused towards meeting the full financial requirement of the Regional Refugee and Resilience Plan (3RP), in order to support Governments of the region through a coordinated strategy to strengthen basic services in these countries, ease host-community pressures, and help prevent dangerous migration journeys. (Paragraph 13)

3.We are gravely concerned about the increased tensions between host communities and refugees, particularly given the risk that such tensions might further contribute to regional instability. We have received strong evidence about the need for a new approach to humanitarian assistance. Research suggests that cash programming may provide a valuable means of delivering support in a way that offers dignity for refugees and facilitates peaceful co-existence with host communities by benefitting local economies. (Paragraph 18)

4.We recommend that DFID build upon its existing efforts and scale up the use of cash-based assistance in the region. It should use the recommendations of the High Level Panel on Cash Transfers as a blueprint for how to do so, and strive to make cash its default means of delivering humanitarian assistance. This is particularly important for targeting the most vulnerable, as refugees with specific needs will have a better understanding of how to meet these needs than aid agencies. We are also gravely concerned about the overall impact on the economies of host countries, and urge DFID to work with the World Bank and other institutions to ensure that they receive the necessary long-term support which is vital to their economic survival. (Paragraph 18)

Support in the region

5.Whilst the UK Government strategy has focused on helping refugees in Syria and elsewhere in the Middle East, many of the British public appear unaware of the extent of this. The Government should ensure that the public are aware of both the extent of its support and the benefits of supporting refugees in their own country. (Paragraph 19)

6.We commend the Government’s support within the region for three reasons. Firstly, evidence suggests that despite the operational challenges of delivering assistance in the Middle East, it is more cost-effective to support refugees in the region than it is to direct resources towards resettling them in the UK. Secondly, we heard that it is actually in the best interests of the majority of refugees to stay closer to home, though they require adequate funding to support this. Thirdly, one of the key factors driving refugees towards dangerous trips across the Mediterranean is cuts to humanitarian assistance, which in turn is driven by insufficient funding from donors. This suggests that sufficient funding to help humanitarian organisations support an adequate standard of living in the region will deter many more refugees from risking their lives in this way. As John Ging of UN OCHA wrote, it is only the prospect of a better future that will prevent refugees from leaving the region. (Paragraph 20)

Possible solutions

7.We welcome the Minister’s statement that he hoped to bring forward a proposal early next year, and emphasise that such a proposal must move beyond short-term employment responses towards finding areas of economic growth that can create sustainable employment solutions. This should involve the provision of education beyond primary school age to include skills training. We see a coordinated and carefully planned effort to address this issue as essential to the long-term sustainability of refugees’ presence in host countries. (Paragraph 25)

8.As the refugee crisis has become increasingly protracted, the need for legal employment opportunities for Syrian refugees has grown. Evidence suggests that they want to work, yet legal restrictions mean they are forced to remain reliant on humanitarian assistance or find work in the informal sector. This model is unsustainable in the long-term and has a particularly negative effect on child refugees. DFID can help develop employment opportunities in host countries and put the Syrian refugee crisis response on a more sustainable development footing. (Paragraph 27)

9.Given that other countries are making considerable investment commitments in Jordan, we recommend that DFID engage with the Jordan Investment Commission and other partners to explore opportunities to leverage these projects to create jobs for refugees. We recommend that DFID use its expertise in the field of economic development and works with suitable partners to identify and develop opportunities for investment, economic growth and sustainable job creation to the benefit of Syrian refugees and host communities alike. Specifically it should extend its inclusive growth diagnostic exercise to refugee hosting countries in the Middle East. (Paragraph 27)

10.We see the identification of long-term opportunities to create jobs in countries hosting refugees as a key response to the crisis. (Paragraph 28)

11.DFID should make use of CDC Group’s expertise in private sector investment and should discuss CDC’s remit with the CDC board and allow it to invest in countries hosting refugees. In addition, DFID should provide CDC with specific funds for it to invest on DFID’s behalf in sustainable job-creating businesses in those countries. (Paragraph 28)

The global humanitarian system

12.The global approach to protracted crises should be a key topic at next year’s World Humanitarian Summit in Istanbul. We are concerned about the lack of a comprehensive, long-term strategy to deal with such crises and shift funding from a reliance on humanitarian assistance towards a more development-centred approach. (Paragraph 32)

13.We recommend that DFID focus its efforts at the Summit on this issue in three respects. Firstly, promote early investment in public services and economic infrastructure which can yield long-term dividends that a narrow focus on immediate humanitarian needs cannot. Secondly, negotiate commitments to provide humanitarian and development funding over multi-year timeframes, enabling the response to be better managed and more strategic. Thirdly, focus on developing areas of economic growth which will create sustainable employment solutions and ultimately help a country from aid dependency. (Paragraph 32)

The needs of the most vulnerable refugees

14.The challenge for the Government and its partners, chiefly UNHCR, therefore lies in ensuring that the processes for identifying and assisting the most vulnerable refugees are robust enough to reach those most in need. (Paragraph 34)

The most vulnerable among those left behind in Syria

15.We note the Resolution of the House (2 December) supporting action against Daesh in Syria, including through air strikes. We warmly welcome the House’s support for the Government’s humanitarian assistance to Syrian refugees. The recent escalation of military efforts will have an impact on conditions faced by civilians in Syria, and may well make it more difficult for DFID and other agencies to deliver humanitarian aid. (Paragraph 39)

16.The UK must do all it can to mitigate the risk of worsening the humanitarian situation. The potential humanitarian consequences of protracted military engagement must be a driving force for The UK Government in pressing for ceasefire and political settlement through the vehicle of the Vienna talks. (Paragraph 39)

Addressing the needs of the most vulnerable in camps and host communities outside Syria

17.We welcome DFID’s approach of directing approximately 75% of overall humanitarian assistance towards host communities. However, major aid agencies such as UNHCR, which are a conduit for much of the UK’s financial support, should be doing the same. (Paragraph 43)

18.DFID should press all UN agencies and NGOs, particularly the major UK aid recipients, to ensure that vulnerable refugees outside of camps receive an appropriate level of support. This must include directing resources towards refugees in host communities because they are the most vulnerable and have disproportionately suffered from cuts to humanitarian assistance. (Paragraph 43)

Vulnerable groups

19.The risks faced by anyone that has been forced to flee their home are substantial. However, in the context of the Syrian crisis, certain groups are affected in ways that heighten their vulnerability. For these people resettlement is an appropriate and durable solution. We commend the UNHCR and their commitment to ensuring that processes for identifying the vulnerable are robust in an extremely complex environment with significant operational challenges. Yet evidence indicated non-registration by certain vulnerable groups, who prefer to stay outside official UN camps, is occurring and that, despite best efforts, it appears that under-registration may well also be an issue. (Paragraph 52)

20.We recommend that the Government continue to carefully monitor the profiles of cases referred for resettlement, including, where possible, demographics, sexuality, religion, disability status, and the location from which refugees have been selected and whether from within or outside official UN camps. Such monitoring outputs should be fed back to UNHCR to identify any groups that are underrepresented in referrals and establish and execute action to remedy this, thus ensuring that UNHCR’s principle of equal access is realised. (Paragraph 52)

21.We are concerned about the ban that has forced the UNCHR to stop registering new refugees in Lebanon and the implications this has for refugees’ access to support. (Paragraph 55)

22.We urge DFID to press the Lebanese Government harder to allow the resumption of registration processes. Given that it has ordered the ban until a new registration mechanism is established, DFID should consult with Lebanese authorities to identify any objections to the previous processes and ensure that solutions are identified so that registrations can resume as soon as possible. (Paragraph 55)

23.We are gravely concerned about the situation for Syrian child refugees and we commend DFID’s commitment to helping them, both within the region through the No Lost Generation Initiative and through resettlement. However, we are very concerned about the plight of unaccompanied refugee children in Europe, particularly as reports suggest they are falling prey to people traffickers. (Paragraph 63)

24.We urge the Government to come to a quick decision on the proposal by Save the Children as this is a matter of utmost urgency. We would welcome a decision by the Government in favour of resettling 3,000 unaccompanied children, as recommended by Save the Children, and in addition to the current commitment to resettle 20,000 refugees from the region. (Paragraph 63)

Resettlement in the UK

25.We have heard evidence that a reduction in available funding from international donors other than the UK has reduced the capacity of multilateral organisations to deliver humanitarian protection. In the context of mounting pressure on limited humanitarian resource in the region, there is a case for delivering resettlement quickly. (Paragraph 65)

26.The Government should be prepared for the possibility that the speed of resettlements may take on greater urgency. The Government should also explore urgently how to better harness the substantial goodwill and offers of support for Syrian refugees, from local community groups within the UK seeking to support refugees settled here. (Paragraph 65)

27.We support the Minister’s proposal of a skills matching scheme to help refugees transition into working life in the UK, but we are concerned about cuts to ESOL funding. The long waiting lists are evidence that demand already outstrips supply. (Paragraph 67)

28.We urge the Government to reconsider the cuts to ESOL funding as we believe that they are counterproductive to integration plans. (Paragraph 67)

29.We welcome the news that support will continue beyond the first year, particularly given the financial pressures that many local authorities are under. (Paragraph 69)

© Parliamentary copyright 2015

Prepared 21 December 2015