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Committee call for last Syria humanitarian crossing to stay open

16 June 2021

The Chair of the House of Commons International Development Committee, Sarah Champion MP, has urged the government to help prevent the closure of a vital humanitarian supply route into Syria to prevent what she called a “disaster” for the people of Idlib Province in the northwest of the country.

Ms Champion has written to the Foreign Secretary, Dominic Raab MP, urging him to lobby the United Nations Security Council to keep the last remaining humanitarian border crossing point from Turkey to Syria, at Bab al-Hawa, open. The letter is here

Around three quarters of the people of northwest Syria are dependent on UN aid to meet their needs, the letter said, with around 85% of that aid coming through the Bab al-Hawa crossing.

The UK is one of the five influential permanent members of the United Nations Security Council, the organisation’s body responsible for maintaining international peace and security.

The Security Council passed a resolution to keep the Bab al-Hawa crossing open, but this resolution is due to expire on 10 July. Sarah Champion said in her letter that there have been reports that Russia, another permanent member of the Security Council, will veto an extension of the resolution - meaning the crossing would close.

The letter urged Mr Raab to make strong representations to members of the Security Council on the importance of cross-border aid into Syria and on how vital it was to keep Bab al-Hawa open. He was asked to report back on these UK moves.

He was further asked about the level of UK aid to Syria. It totalled around £400m last year but is scheduled to be reduced to £215m this year. Ms Champion asked Mr Raab what discussions he had had with organisations delivering UK aid about this reduction.

Finally, the letter questioned Mr Raab about what alternative arrangements were in place for the delivery of UK aid to Syria if cross border assistance is no longer possible after July 10.

Sarah Champion MP, the Chair of the International Development Committee, said:

“The closure of Bab al-Hawa would be a disaster. Aid agencies working in the region say over a million people are at risk of hunger if this happens.

“It was already incredibly difficult for humanitarian organisations to work in this area before the pandemic hit. Now, the aid agencies say a border closure would also put a halt to the UN-led Covid vaccination campaign. That would make a disaster a catastrophe – you cannot socially distance in a refugee camp or at a food distribution point.

“The UK must do all it can, including at the UN Security Council, to keep the border open”.

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Image: PA