By Tom Coghlan, Sara Elizabeth Williams
David Cameron has been told that Britain and the West must end the Syrian war to halt Europe’s migration crisis.
The prime minister was on a visit to UK-funded refugee camps in Lebanon and Jordan. He toured camps within a mile of the Syrian border to highlight the £1 billion that Britain has given to help more than four million Syrians displaced into Turkey, Iraq, Jordan and Lebanon.
With Britain facing criticism for refusing to grant asylum to more Syrian refugees, he said that the country’s focus on providing aid to the Middle East directly was helping to limit the numbers travelling to Europe:
“Around 3 per cent of the 11 million Syrians forced from their homes have sought asylum in Europe,” he said. “Without British aid, hundreds of thousands more could be risking their lives seeking to get to Europe.”
Tammam Salam, the Lebanese prime minister, warned that without an end to the war, which has killed 240,000 people and displaced nearly half the population, the crisis would go on. “We are convinced that the refugee crisis . . . is a phenomenon that cannot come to a halt unless we find a political solution to put an end to the war in Syria,” Mr Salam said.
Aid agencies, including Save the Children, echoed that call. “Important as it is, aid spending is not the full picture. If we are really going to solve the refugee crisis and give Syrian children the chance of a decent future, we need to end the war,” it said.
Britain has promised to take 20,000 refugees directly from camps in the region over five years. David Miliband, head of the International Rescue Committee, said that Britain’s commitment was equivalent to the number arriving every day on the beaches of Lesbos.
The international aid effort to Syria is facing shortfalls. The $2.1 billion Lebanon crisis response plan appeal set up by the UN High Commissioner for Refugees in December has received only $371 million from the international community, 17 per cent of the total it requires. Since the start of the year the cash-strapped UN World Food Programme has gradually cut food aid to about a third of Syrian refugees.