Syria - (Updated) August 2018

Chemical weapons and military response

The terrible chemical weapons attack that took place in Douma was a tragedy and the Government's limited, targeted and proportionate response was necessary.  It came on the back of a significant body of information, including intelligence, that indicates that the Syrian regime was responsible for this attack. 

There have been extensive diplomatic attempts to commit Syria to dismantling its chemical weapons programme, which have failed. The Government had no choice but to conclude that diplomatic action on its own was not going to work. 

The purpose of  military action was to significantly degrade Syrian Chemical Weapons capabilities and deter their future use. Everything possible was done to avoid escalation and to prevent civilian casualties. 
This action was not about intervening in the civil war in Syria or about regime change but about protecting civilians and upholding and defending the global consensus of nearly 100 years that chemical weapons should not be used. It is absolutely right to try to prevent the use of chemical weapons, either in Syria or on the streets of the UK, to become normalised.

The Prime Minister must have the flexibility to act in a limited but speedy way to deal with a very real threat. When the Government decides to take action without a Parliamentary debate, it is right that Parliament is given an opportunity as soon as possible to give all Members the ability to question the decision and hold the Government to account. That is why the Prime Minister came to the House at the first opportunity and why the issue has been given significant Parliamentary time since then.

 

UK humanitarian response 

The Government is working hard to alleviate the suffering in Syria and is at the forefront of the humanitarian response to this crisis, committing £2.46 billion since 2012 - our largest ever response to a single humanitarian crisis.  This is helping to meet the immediate needs of vulnerable people in Syria and refugees in the region. 
 
UK aid is making a real difference, providing life-saving and life-changing humanitarian support to the people of Syria, and those who have fled to neighbouring countries. Since 2012, across Syria and the region, UK aid has delivered over 26 million food rations that feed a person for a month, 10.3 million medical consultations, 9.8 million relief packages, and over 8 million vaccines. In 2016/17 alone, UK aid reached over 5 million people with clean water. 
 
DFID's work on the Syrian crisis gives people in the region hope for a better future. Without British aid, hundreds of thousands of Syrians may feel they had no alternative but to risk their lives seeking to get to Europe. 
 
While an extensive humanitarian response can help alleviate the suffering in the region, the only way to establish lasting peace in Syria is through a credible political transition away from the Assad regime. Ministers will continue to put pressure on the Assad regime to both allow humanitarian aid into cut-off regions and to also bring an end to the conflict in the country. In the challenges 2018 brings, Britain will continue to be at the forefront of the global humanitarian response. 

 

Syrian refugees 

Britain is a moral nation and we will fulfil our moral responsibilities. That is why we sent the Royal Navy to the Mediterranean, saving thousands of lives; why we meet our commitment to spend 0.7 per cent of our economy on aid; why Britain is the second biggest bilateral donor in the world to Syrian refugee camps; and why since the crisis began we have granted asylum to nearly 5,000 Syrians and their dependents through normal procedures. 
 
Britain will resettle up to 20,000 refugees by 2020. These refugees will come from the region to discourage people from taking the perilous journey across the Mediterranean. It is important to remember that the vast majority of refugees are displaced in the region, which is why it is crucial we focus our efforts on supporting those who are displaced there. 
 
To support local communities, the foreign aid budget will be used to finance these refugees for the first year and help local councils with things such as housing. In the longer term, our additional aid spending will be directed to these failed states and to the refugee crisis.

The Government continues to work with local authorities and international partners to deliver the commitment to resettle 20,000 refugees by 2020, and is on track to do so. The number resettled in a particular period will depend on a range of factors including the flow of referrals from the United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees and the availability of suitable accommodation and support in the UK. Progress on resettlement is indicated in quarterly immigration statistics.

 

White helmets (Syria Civil Defence)

I would like to pay tribute to this organisation and the brave and selfless work they do to save Syrians on all sides of the conflict. They have saved over 115,000 lives during the war, at great risk to their own. 

The White Helmets have attracted considerable positive international recognition for this incredible work. As well as saving lives, the White Helmets have also sought to document what is taking place in Syria which allows organisations such as Amnesty International corroborate testimony they receive from people in Syria. This has been damaging for the war narrative of Syria and Russia and led to attempts to discredit them and produce a confusing counter-narrative. I would urge you not to give credence to this.

Following a joint diplomatic effort by the UK and international partners, a group of White Helmets volunteers from southern Syria and their families have been able to leave Syria for safety.

The processes established by the United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees for the Syrian vulnerable persons' resettlement scheme will be used to identify those most in need of support and determine who would benefit most from our assistance here in the UK.