European Parliament calls for a humanitarian conference on the Syrian refugee crisis

The EU should convene a humanitarian conference aimed at helping Syria’s neighbouring countries to cope with the still-growing influx of refugees. The European Parliament passed a resolution yesterday urging the EU to continue providing humanitarian aid and support to refugees and to guarantee them safe entry and access to fair asylum procedures in the EU.

The humanitarian conference on the Syrian refugee crisis should explore ways to help refugee host countries in the region (in particular Lebanon, Jordan, Turkey and Iraq) to cope with still-growing refugee populations and to keep their borders open to all Syrian refugees. Thousands of Syrians flee to neighbouring countries every day and the UN forecasts that 3.5 million refugees will have left Syria by the end of 2013. Besides humanitarian aid, the conference should also focus on strengthening the EU’s role and involvement in diplomatic efforts to help end the conflict in Syria.

Speaking for the European Commission in the debate, Commissioner Barnier agreed to the organisation of such a conference. With the European Parliament and the European Commission in agreement, the proposed action should become a reality. 

The European Parliament called on the EU, as the largest humanitarian aid donor in the Syrian crisis, to “continue its generous funding” to meet the needs of the Syrian people, including safe entry for refugees and solidarity with EU countries under pressure. Member states should explore all existing EU laws and procedures to provide a safe entry into the EU to temporarily admit Syrians fleeing their country. MEPs welcomed the general consensus among EU member states that Syrian nationals should not be returned.

The Parliament maintained that refugees should have “access to fair and efficient asylum procedures” in the EU, and reiterated the need for more solidarity among member states with those facing particular pressure to receive refugees.

Parliament, however, pointed out that “member states are required to come to the assistance of migrants at sea”, and called on those which have failed to abide by their international obligations to stop turning back boats with migrants on board.

EU countries are encouraged to make full use of money to be made available from the Asylum and Migration Fund and the Preparatory Action to “Enable the resettlement of refugees during emergency situations”.

The resolution encouraged EU countries “to address acute needs through resettlement”, in addition to existing national quotas and through humanitarian admission.

MEPs also made it clear that the possible influx of refugees into EU member states required “responsible measures“, say MEPs and called on the EU Commission together with member states to work on contingency planning, including the possibility of applying the Temporary Protection Directive, “if and when conditions demand it”. Under this 2001 directive, which so far has never been triggered, refugees would be granted a residence permit for the entire duration of the protection period, as well as access to employment and accommodation.

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