Berlin Conference on Syria refugee response must deliver as harsh winter approaches

Emergencies, In the field article written on the 27 Oct 2014

Photo: Maya Hautefeuille

As winter approaches, and temperatures are set to plummet below freezing, a little hot water goes a long way to keep Syrian refugees warm through the cold months.

As the crisis nears four years — Syrian refugees like Yasmine who live in makeshift camps in Lebanon — will face yet another freezing winter.

“Before we used to take cold showers during winter but now the situation is better.” said Yasmine (watch her story above).

With more than three million refugees in the countries surrounding Syria, governments from around the world are gathering today in Berlin for a conference on the response to the refugee crisis.

The situation is becoming untenable for Syria’s neighbours and vulnerable people are paying the price. We need to see clear, practical commitments in Berlin today to help refugees like Yasmine as well as host communities.

Nearly four years into the conflict, the impact of the crisis on Syria’s neighbours’ economy, infrastructure, education and health systems is palpable. As a result, governments are increasingly closing their borders to more people seeking sanctuary.

It is essential that other governments step up to offer long-term financial support to host countries both to meet immediate humanitarian needs and support development approaches into the future. They should also provide a life-line to refugees in need through resettlement in countries outside the immediate region.

Today’s conference in Berlin must be a first step on the road to a clear international agreement that will help countries affected by the mass exodus of refugees and ensure that the rights of vulnerable individuals are respected.

Everyone who needs to escape must be able to flee to safety from the conflict.

Germany has already agreed to accept 26,400 refugees from Syria but now more countries need to follow suit. Oxfam has called on wealthy nations to accept at least 5% of the projected refugee population; a move well within their capacity and – while still a fraction of the whole – would make a significant impact on people’s lives.

For the sake of people like Yasmine, there must be a step-change in the international response to the crisis — including redoubled efforts to hasten a political solution or refugees will be forced to live outside Syria for years to come.