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Tánaiste offers Irish assistance in response to the crisis in Syria

Emergencies, News/feature, Syria, 2012

In response to the growing crisis in Syria, Tánaiste and Minister for Foreign Affairs and Trade, Mr. Eamon Gilmore TD, has pledged to make up to €500,000 available to Irish Aid’s partner humanitarian agencies who are working on the ground. 

The Tánaiste said that the funds would be made available to the Red Cross and UN agencies operating in Syria as well as in neighbouring countries such as Jordan, Turkey and Lebanon.  Irish Aid funding will be used to provide immediate relief to those affected by the fighting and to pre-position emergency supplies for use in the event that the situation deteriorates further. 

“After almost a year of conflict in Syria, the UN estimates that 7,500 people have died, while up to 200,000 people have fled their homes amid widespread destruction. Some have sought refuge in neighbouring countries, while hundreds of thousands of civilians have been caught up in the fighting. There is a real risk that the situation could deteriorate further and I believe the international community has a duty to respond.”

The Tánaiste underlined the importance of securing immediate and unhindered access for all humanitarian agencies, including the UN, which has the lead role in coordinating international humanitarian efforts:

“Despite the valiant efforts of humanitarian agencies to reach those most in need, access to vulnerable communities and regions remains extremely difficult.  The situation in Homs is particularly dire, with food and medical supplies running dangerously low.  We will continue to call for free, safe and unhindered access for all humanitarian workers and relief supplies. In this regard, we fully support the efforts of Baroness Amos, the UN Emergency Relief Coordinator, to gain access and encourage the Syrian authorities to engage with her and with the International Committee of the Red Cross without further delay with a view to allowing immediate access to people suffering as a result of the violence”. 

The Tánaiste echoed the warnings made by the UN regarding the dangers associated with any possible militarisation of emergency assistance.

“It is critical to the integrity and safety of aid operations that they are seen to be independent of all military force.  The provision of essential humanitarian relief must be kept separate from other activities”.

Minister of State for Trade and Development, Joe Costello, T.D., has placed Irish Aid’s Rapid Response Corps on standby and offered emergency stockpiles to aid agencies as part of their response.

“The Irish Aid Rapid Response Corps and our emergency stockpiles in Dubai are available for immediate dispatch as required.  I have asked my officials to keep in close contact with the relief operation and to liaise with the Red Cross and the UN as the situation with regard to humanitarian access and the needs of these agencies gradually becomes clearer.”

5 March 2012
For further information or to request an interview with Minister Costello, please contact Fionnuala Quinlan, Press Officer, Irish Aid, the Department of Foreign Affairs and Trade on 087-9099975.