Oireachtas Joint and Select Committees

Tuesday, 5 March 2019

Joint Oireachtas Committee on Foreign Affairs and Trade, and Defence

Refugee Situation in Syria: Discussion

Photo of Brendan SmithBrendan Smith (Cavan-Monaghan, Fianna Fail) | Oireachtas source

I thank all of the representatives for what Deputy Niall Collins termed a very insightful overview of the very difficult situation in Syria and adjoining countries. It was very welcome to have Mr. Al Manla, as a programme director in that region, in attendance. The committee was anxious that Concern, GOAL and Trócaire have the opportunity to present to the committee and this meeting in public session was specially arranged in advance of the Brussels III conference on supporting the future of Syria and the region which is to take place next week. As the representatives are aware, the committee does not have an executive role but with the agreement of members, we will write to the Tánaiste and Minister for Foreign Affairs and Trade, Deputy Coveney, to outline the concerns raised by the delegates regarding the ongoing humanitarian issues and other longer term issues in regard to infrastructure, the security of those who wish to return to Syria and the obvious pressures in adjoining countries where there are many displaced people and refugees. I was struck by Ms Kennedy's reference to the need to ensure that women's leadership is encouraged and supported in this area, as well as the emphasis on education and the very real danger of a lost generation due to a lack of access to education. The committee was anxious to hold this meeting in advance of the conference in Brussels next week in order to get an up-to-date presentation from the delegates in public session. We do not have an executive role but we will communicate promptly with the Tánaiste. It is important to provide taxpayers and the members of the public who support the work of Concern, GOAL, Trócaire and other organisations with an opportunity through Oireachtas TV or other media coverage to hear of the plight of many millions of people in that area and to know that the money donated by taxpayers and the public through public appeals is put to very good use. On its behalf and that of the Oireachtas, the committee wishes to commend the work of the delegates' colleagues who are working on the ground in extremely difficult conditions. Mr. Al Mansa referred to the courage of humanitarian workers on the ground and the very serious safety and security issues they face on a daily basis.

The committee has had much engagement with these and other organisations on this issue over the more than eight years that, unfortunately, the conflict has continued. I refer to the death toll of more than 500,000 and the 16 million people who need humanitarian aid. It goes without saying that the committee will be totally supportive of the cause espoused by the representatives. We will encourage the Government and the European Union to continue to provide financial support and encourage other members of the international community which have not been as generous or thoughtful in respect of this tragedy to do likewise.


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