Skip to main content


Volume 615: debated on Tuesday 18 October 2016

4. What progress he has made on diplomatic negotiations with his counterparts in countries bordering Syria to allow (a) aid to reach refugees and (b) refugees to leave safely. (906640)

We support the UN’s response to the Syria crisis and its regional impact. We have allocated £1.1 billion to Syria’s neighbours to help them to meet their humanitarian obligations, while maintaining border security. We work closely with them to provide humanitarian aid, as well as job and education opportunities for refugees.

An estimated 75,000 to 100,000 refugees, mostly women and children, are trapped without food and with little aid in the Berm, an area of no man’s land on the Syrian-Jordanian border. Given that Jordan already has thousands of refugees, if the next military target is to be Raqqa, the capital of ISIS, with an inevitable further flow of refugees towards the Jordanian border, what will the Foreign Secretary do to assist Jordan now and in the future?

We are in regular contact with the Jordanian authorities to assist the humanitarian situation in the Berm. We are one of the biggest deliverers of aid to the area. In recent months we have had meetings on several occasions with the Government of Jordan to try to address growing concerns about conditions, and I know that the Prime Minister has raised that.

One of the many barriers to creating safe routes out of Syria is the Syrian Government’s practice of declaring stolen passports belonging to those who oppose them. Will the Foreign Secretary, as a matter of some urgency, speak to his colleague the Home Secretary about the position of Zaina Erhaim, an award-winning Syrian journalist who recently had her passport confiscated as she came into Heathrow?

I am aware of the case. It is very difficult, because we must, in law, confiscate passports that have been stolen, but we are doing what we can to assist the lady in question.[Official Report, 8 November 2016, Vol. 616, c. 4MC.]

I thank the Secretary of State for that update. As he knows, the United Nations envoy to Syria, Staffan de Mistura, has described the presence of some 1,000 jihadi fighters in eastern Aleppo as an “easy alibi” for the Russian and Syrian forces to justify their bombardment. Will the Secretary of State today support de Mistura’s proposals to offer the jihadi fighters some sort of passage out of the city so that they can be dealt with in an international criminal court?

The reality is that no such proposal can conceivably be made to work in the absence of a cessation of hostilities by the Russians and the Assad regime. That is the precondition. A durable and convincing ceasefire must be delivered by the Assad regime before any such proposal can conceivably be made to work.