Thank you for contacting me about earthquake relief in Syria.
I offer my condolences to all those affected by this tragedy, particularly those who lost loved ones. The UK Government offered support to Syria only hours after the earthquake struck, and continues to support their long-term recovery efforts.
In the aftermath of the earthquakes, the UK immediately announced an additional £800,000 to the UK-funded White Helmets, who immediately mobilised their response in north-west Syria. The White Helmets volunteers carried out search and rescue operations in 60 villages across 182 locations, helping thousands of civilians. Furthermore, to protect survivors and support those who had been critically injured, the UK also sent a world-class team of UK medics and announced £8 million of lifesaving support to both Turkey and Syria, which was used to provide survivors with vital items, like tents and blankets, meeting the needs of up to 15,000 people. The UK Government also matched the £5 million raised by the Disaster Emergency Committee’s (DEC) joint appeal for UK humanitarian operations in Turkey and Syria. As the focus moves from rescue to recovery, the UK has continued urgent humanitarian assistance with a further financial package of £25 million.
Despite this, efforts to provide humanitarian aid have been hindered by ongoing conflict in the region and the Assad regime’s sustained use of aid as a political weapon. Despite earlier opening three crossings on the Syrian border, Turkey has now closed these access points due to ongoing clashes in northern Aleppo. This followed Russia’s decision to veto a compromise solution that would have extended UN operation through Bab al-Hawa crossing for a further nine months.
I call for all parties in Syria to observe their commitments under ceasefire agreements and to work towards sustained, calm and unhindered humanitarian access through all modalities. The UK Government is not the only aid providing organisation to call for this; I note the UN Special Envoy for Syria’s assertion that “2023 [...] saw the worst eruptions of violent conflict in years, further exacerbating the worsening humanitarian situation, and a lack of meaningful progress on the political process”. Likewise, I will openly criticise Russia for its breaches of international rules and norms.
The UK Government plans to spend up to £150 million in 2023/24 to support the Syrian people and refugee-hosting countries. I know the UK Government remains updated, via the British Embassy in Ankara and aid agencies on the ground in both countries, and is committed to supporting the long-term recovery effort. I will continue to follow developments with keen interest.
Thank you again for taking the time to contact me.