Washington, D.C. (November 9, 2015) —
The international community must agree to a bold new deal
for Syria's refugees if it is serious about tackling the largest humanitarian
crisis since World War II, seven major aid agencies warned today in a new
With no end to the conflict in sight and no prospect
of safe return home, the new deal must provide more investment in Syria's
neighbors, which host more than four million refugees, and an end to restrictions
that prevent refugees from working and in some cases living legally in these
countries. At the same time, it must protect and strengthen their right to seek
"Many refugees are currently being condemned to a life
in legal limbo with an array of restrictions which leave them in fear of
arrest, detention and deportation," said the Secretary General of Norwegian
Refugee Council Jan Egeland.
"Their living conditions are deteriorating
dramatically, forcing refugees to adopt extreme measures to cope, including
increasingly to return to the warzone they fled or to risk their lives crossing
to Europe. We need to help the host countries give refugees the opportunity to
live dignified lives and make a positive contribution to the communities hosting
The agencies argue that a new, creative, long-term
approach is needed. With the right help from international donors, Syria's
neighboring governments should develop policies that allow refugees to better
support themselves financially without the risk of arrest by authorities. This
would also allow refugees to contribute to the economy of the communities
Unable to afford rent or food, and relying on
dwindling aid, refugees are pushed into a spiral of destitution and
debt. Some 70 percent in Lebanon lack the documents needed to stay in the
country legally and many refugees in Jordan outside of camps are struggling to
access medical and education services because they lack updated documents.
"We risk losing a whole generation of young Syrians –
the same generation that will have to rebuild Syria once the conflict is
finally over. With adults unable to earn a living, more and more children end
up in work. Hundreds of thousands of children are missing years of education as
the school systems in neighboring countries are bursting at the seams and need
much greater support," said Misty Buswell, Regional Advocacy Director at Save
"For over four
years now, refugees have been living hand to mouth, relying on humanitarian
aid, not knowing where the next meal comes from," said Oxfam's Executive
Director, Winnie Byanyima.
carpenters, farmers and teachers, among others, who we often meet are
struggling to keep a roof over their heads as they scrape money together to pay
rent. Their skills should be put to good use, to allow them to provide
for their families and support the economies of the countries hosting them. New
jobs could also benefit the millions of Jordanians, Lebanese, Turkish, and
Iraqis who are facing this crisis too."
community needs to realize that, rather than a burden, as refugees are often
wrongly portrayed, the evidence points to the contrary: that refugees who are
legally able to work can make positive contributions to host economies with
their diverse skills and experience," said Peter Klanso, Danish Refugee Council
Middle East and North Africa Director.
Even with the right investment and policies, the scale
of the crisis means that the most vulnerable refugees will need asylum outside
of the region. Rich countries should provide a safe resettlement option for at
least 10 percent of refugees who are most in need, but they have only pledged
to accept less than three per cent so far, and waiting time is far too long.
Save the Children gives children in the United States and around the world a healthy start, the opportunity to learn and protection from harm. We invest in childhood — every day, in times of crisis and for our future. Follow us on Twitter and Facebook.