Meanwhile the Vatican urges governments to treat refugees with more dignity
The United Nations has put forward a record appeal seeking humanitarian aid for Syria. They have asked for $5 bn dollars (£3.2bn or 3.7bn euros) which makes it the highest appeal ever to be made by the UN.
With over 80,000 men, women and children already slaughtered, by UN estimations, half of Syria’s population – over 10 million – will be needing immediate humanitarian aid before the end of 2013.
This colossal amount was decided upon in a UN conference in Geneva on Friday, due to the growing security dilemma in Syria, which has already displaced over 1.5 million people, and is predicted to rise as high as 3.5 million by the end of this year. They have further estimated that as many as 7 million refugees will be completely dependent upon humanitarian aid, having lost their homes, endured unthinkable violence, and forced to live in dire circumstances without food, medical care, shelter and schooling.
The UN had an initial target of raising $1.5 bn within the first six months of 2013, but the slow response from many countries caused the organisation to criticise governments for their lagging commitment. However the UN have now revealed that they have managed to reach $1.2bn in pledged funds, which is just shy of the half-year target.
UNICEF has stated in a two-year report on the bloody Syrian conflict that “The risk of losing a generation grows with every day that the situation deteriorates, while the progress made for Syrian children in previous years is undone.” The amount of refugee children has now risen to 4 million, with many of the children "killed, maimed and orphaned by conflict.”
THe UN High Commissioner for Refugees (UNHCR) Antonio Guterres, remarked on the tragic situation of Syrian refugees who pour constantly into neighbouring countries in order to escape the violence that has shaken their homeland to the very core. He stated that every day 7,000 more refugees were arriving into surrounding countries, which is putting great pressure on them, making it all the more vital for aid to get through. "Funding Syria's humanitarian needs is a matter not only of generosity but enlightened self interest” he remarked.
Besides UN appeals, the Church is also particularly vocal on the escalated refugee situation.
The Vatican released a document on the 6th of June called “Welcoming Christ in Refugees and Forcibly Displaced Persons.” It was put forward by both the Pontifical Council for Migrants and the Pontifical Council Cor Unum, where Cardinals Antonio Maria Veglio and Robert Sarah – presidents of the two dicasteries – introduced it in a news conference held in Rome.
human dignity above all
The document emphasised the governments’ need to recognise and give “‘absolute priority’ to the fundamental rights of refugees”.
Cardinal Veglio stated in his introduction that “every policy, initiative, or intervention in this area must be guided by the principle of the centrality and dignity of every human person.” He condemned governments’ treatment of refugees thus far, criticising their policies which subject these displaced people to “confined detention, internment in refugee camps, and having their freedom to travel and their right to work restricted.”
Following this principle of centralising the dignity of the person, Cardinal Veglio asserted that “protection must be guaranteed to all who live under conditions of forced migration, taking into account their specific needs, which can vary from a residency permit for victims of human trafficking to the possibility of being granted citizenship for those who are stateless.”
The Pope himself reinforced such a petition to governments.
In his address to the Council which coincided with the publication of this document, Pope Francis stated that “the Church is renewing her urgent appeal that the dignity and centrality of every individual always be safeguarded, with respect for fundamental rights, as her social teaching emphasizes.”
He continues: “above all I ask leaders and legislators and the entire international community to confront the reality of those who have been displaced by force, with effective projects and new approaches in order to protect their dignity, to improve the quality of their life and to face the challenges that are emerging from modern forms of persecution, oppression and slavery.”