Skip to main content

Syria's lost refugee children – urgent Government response needed

5 January 2016

The International Development Committee urges the Government to back Save the Children's proposal of accepting an additional 3,000 refugee children from within Europe. This is in addition to the current commitment to resettle 20,000 refugees from the region.

Chair's comments

Stephen Twigg MP, Chair of the Committee, said:

"Children are clearly some of the most vulnerable refugees this crisis has created. The Committee heard that close to 80% of Syria's child population already need humanitarian assistance.

In December, the UNHCR and International Organisation for Migration estimated that one million refugees and migrants fled to Europe in 2015. Of more than 900,000 people taking the dangerous route across the Mediterranean, one in every two were Syrian. The first refugee casualty of 2016 was a drowned two year old boy pulled from the sea off the Greek coast.

Having survived the treacherous journey, there is a grave possibility that unaccompanied children become the victims of people traffickers who force them into prostitution, child labour and the drugs trade. This is an issue of utmost urgency."

The Committee commends the Government for its approach to the humanitarian crisis in Syria, providing the second highest level of bilateral funding to the region – in line with the goal of committing 0.7% of gross national income on Official Development Assistance. The Government also reached the target of accepting 1,000 refugees by Christmas.


The Committee makes several recommendations:

  • On invisible refugees: It is essential that Government continues to monitor the profiles of cases referred for resettlement as, despite the best efforts of the UNHCR (United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees), under-registration is an issue. It is important that vulnerable groups such as LGBT, Christians and the disabled, have fair access to the resettlement programme.
  • The Government must insist other wealthy countries, including near neighbours, meet their funding commitments: Efforts should be focussed towards meeting the full financial requirement of the Regional Refugee and Resilience Plan (3RP) in order to support Governments of the region through a coordinated strategy to strengthen basic services in these countries and ease pressure on host communities. 
  • Registration of refugees in Lebanon: Syrian refugees crossing the border into Lebanon in the last six months have been unable to access international assistance and protection following a decision by the Lebanese Government (May 2015) to ban UNHCR from registering Syrian refugees. DFID should press the Lebanese Government to allow the resumption of registration as soon as possible. 
  • MPs call on DFID to investigate options for financial and employment assistance for refugees (for example, cash programming). There must be international support for sustainable employment solutions which provide income, dignity and future prospects for Syrian refugees and their host countries. The Committee welcomes plans for a Government proposal on the issue of refugee employment. A coordinated and carefully planned effort to address this issue will be essential in the long term.

Further information

Image: PA