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Jordan and Lebanon

Volume 567: debated on Tuesday 3 September 2013

Lebanon maintains a fragile political peace, under much pressure at present from increased violence. Jordan is continuing with political and economic reforms, but both states are under increased pressure because of the conflict in Syria and the impact upon their economies and their security issues.

In April I met Syrian refugees in Lebanon and heard at first hand about the atrocities they had fled. Lebanese officials told me about how they were struggling to maintain stability in the face of the sheer numbers of refugees coming in, yet with the numbers doubling in the past six months, the UN appeal is only 41% funded. Will the Minister give his assessment of the impact of this crisis on Lebanese stability?

The situation in Lebanon now, as the House will probably be aware, is that practically 25% of the population of Lebanon is now made up of Syrian refugees. As my right hon. Friend the Foreign Secretary made clear in his remarks earlier, this crisis is of massive proportions, and the news today that the number of refugees has reached 2 million and that by the end of the year we may see 10 million displaced within Syria and beyond emphasises how important it is. We have given support to Lebanon to strengthen borders and an extra £50 million out of the money already distributed for humanitarian aid, but there is no doubt that what is needed is not just that humanitarian aid, but an end to the conflict, because the security of those states neighbouring Syria is imperilled every day that the Syrian conflict goes on.

Zaatari refugee camp in Jordan, which the Minister and I have both visited, is now the largest refugee camp in the world, with 500,000 refugees in Jordan and more unregistered. Britain has a good record in terms of its humanitarian assistance in relation to the Syrian conflict, but what more can Britain do to ensure that other countries step up to the plate, as they need to do if the UN appeal is to be met?

Every time a colleague in the House says exactly what the hon. Gentleman has said, it helps to draw attention to the importance of the appeal. We have worked tirelessly and my right hon. Friend the Secretary of State for International Development has spearheaded the efforts both internationally, here in London and elsewhere to call attention to the fact that unless the UN appeal is met, this greatest refugee crisis of the 21st century and for many years before will leave a lasting scar, because it is not just at the end of the conflict that help will be needed. It will take years for people to go back. The hon. Gentleman is right to draw attention to the crisis, as we do almost every single day.