Monday, 27 March 2017

Syrian refugee classification is welcome but more help is needed for them

Syrians who have fled their country following the crisis are now being officially recognised by the government as refugees. Whilst this is a welcome move and demonstrates the UK government’s commitment to resettling and integrating Syrians who are fleeing war and destruction it is only the start and there are other issues to keep in mind.

The Syrian people are active and want to engage with society. From working closely with hundreds of Syrians within the Yorkshire region (being the region that has received the most) more needs to be done to ensure the Syrian refugees are offered training—be it vocational or academic—so they can be properly integrated into the work force. The strongest way to make a positive impact within the community is by working and helping it grow so schemes such as this will also help refugees who may have gone a while without work and help boost their morale. Ultimately, this is beneficial for the state and society as a whole as more workers stimulate the economy. To achieve this, more provisions in terms of language classes and basic awareness of the education and health systems within the UK would be beneficial.

In the long run, whilst the government helping refugees at home should be encouraged it is not a sustainable solution for the conflict. As long as Assad remains in power the Syrian conflict will continue and it is difficult to envisage an end. Most Syrians aspire to return home one day in the future so bringing an end to the conflict and a stable post Assad, post ISIS Syria, must be regarded as the end goal and the overarching aim for the UK government.

Zaki Kaf Al-Ghazal
LLM International Law University of Leeds
Media Coordinator, Syrian Association of Yorkshire

Friday, 24 March 2017

Letter to the Prime Minister on the Al Badiya school bombing

Syrian organisations in the UK have today written to the Prime Minister calling for the UK to investigate reports of Coalition responsibility for civilian deaths in al Badiya, and to review the priority the Coalition is giving to civilian protection.

PDF version here.

The Right Honourable Theresa May
Prime Minister
10 Downing Street
London SW1A 2AA

24 March 2017

Dear Ms May,
We were writing this letter about recent incidents in Syria when the shocking events at Westminster occurred, and we wanted before anything else to share the sense of grief and outrage felt across the community.

Without diminishing the tragedy of this event, especially for its victims, it also acts to strengthen our parallel concern for the loss of life arising from certain actions in Syria for which we feel the British government shares some responsibility. There are now credible reports of a Coalition airstrike on the al Badiya school, west of Raqqa, a shelter for many refugee families, with probably at least 50 civilians killed (mainly women and children) with many sources estimating significantly more.

This seems to be part of an emerging pattern of conspicuous disregard for civilian casualties in the current military campaign against ISIS. It includes the attack on the al Jina mosque last week that killed at least 50 civilians, and such incidents seem to be growing. The monitoring group Airwars estimates at least 2,700 innocent men, women and children have been killed in the Coalition’s anti-ISIS bombing campaign thus far.

We are writing to ask the British government to immediately investigate the responsibility for al Badiya, and for similar attacks, to make known its findings and, more broadly, to review the priority the Coalition is giving to civilian protection.

While many of these attacks are conducted by US forces, the UK is a major partner in the Coalition, with a British officer as deputy commander, and therefore carries joint responsibility for such actions. Moreover, we note that the Ministry of Defense has acknowledged that the RAF is conducting bombing operations in the Raqqa area.

We share the all-important aim of ridding Syria of the barbaric ISIS regime along with supporting the democratic opposition to the no less brutal Assad regime. But, unlike such regimes, we must not be indifferent to civilian lives and suffering; those who have lived under ISIS have suffered enough.

We urge the government to demand from the US the halt of the unacceptable loss of civilian life, which is in danger of becoming a distinguishing mark of this campaign.

Yours sincerely,

Fadel Moghrabi, Peace and Justice in Syria
Yasmine Nahlawi, Rethink Rebuild, Manchester
Dr Sharif Kaf–al Ghazal, Syrian Association of Yorkshire
Malcolm Allen, Syria Solidarity UK
Dr Mohammad Alhadj Ali, Syrian Welsh Society
Mazen Ejbaei, Help 4Syria
Dr Amer Masri, Scotland For Syria
Abdullah Hanoun, Syrian Community in the South West
Reem Assil, Syrian Platform for Peace
Dr Bachar Hakim, Syrian Society of Nottinghamshire