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Volume 557: debated on Wednesday 30 January 2013

6. What estimate she has made of the number of (a) internally displaced people in Syria and (b) Syrians displaced to Turkey and other countries; and if she will make a statement. (140137)

The UN estimates the number of people displaced inside Syria to be about 2 million. There are an additional 700,000 Syrian refugees in need of assistance in neighbouring countries, including 163,000 in Turkey, 228,000 in Lebanon, 222,000 in Jordan, 79,000 in Iraq and more than 14,000 in Egypt.

The tragedy in Syria continues. Last night, we heard on the news of 50 young men found in a river near Aleppo, each with a bullet through his head. The UN says that 60,000 people have died so far in the civil war in Syria. What further steps, if any, can we take to resolve this terrible situation?

My right hon. Friend the Secretary of State is currently at the UN high-level pledging conference for Syria in Kuwait where, I can tell the House, she has just announced a further £50 million for the UN Syria appeals. Together with the £21 million she announced during her visit to Jordan at the weekend, it means that the UK has doubled its funding for this crisis. We are now providing nearly £140 million to deliver emergency assistance to hundreds of thousands of people in Syria and the region.

More than 650,000 people have fled Syria and 60,000 have been killed since the conflict began. Serious food and medicine shortages, and freezing weather conditions, are making access to basic services increasingly difficult. The Opposition welcome today’s announcement to increase humanitarian assistance to Syria, but what steps are the Government taking to assist UN agencies and NGOs to provide access to Syria?

As the House appreciates, because of the security situation inside Syria the humanitarian effort is primarily UN-led and it is working through respectable non-governmental organisations. If we were there ourselves it could put that effort at risk, so this requires careful diplomatic consideration. We have to ensure that the flow of aid, and the protection of those who deliver it, is paramount and retained.