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Friday 8 January 2016

Support for RAF air drops to besieged Syrian civilians

UPDATE – Petition to Parliament: Start aid drops to the starving people of Syria.

Read more here.

Yesterday, Liberal Democrat leader Tim Farron backed the call for RAF air drops to besieged Syrian civilians in comments to the Guardian.

Jo Cox MP and Lord Ashdown have written to the Prime Minister calling for action.

PDF version.

David Cameron MP
Prime Minister
10 Downing Street

7 January 2016

Dear Prime Minister,

The images and stories from besieged Madaya in Syria are truly shocking.

According to reports, in the past month alone 31 civilians have died in Madaya as a result of starvation or attempted escape, while the UN estimates that 400,000 remain besieged across the country.

We find it astonishing that so little has been done by the international community to break these sieges when life-saving medical and food aid are often only minutes away.

The UK played a critical role in negotiating several Security Council resolutions authorising UN agencies to deliver aid across conflict lines and break these sieges. To date, however, far too little has been done to challenge the Assad regime’s unacceptable veto over aid distribution to these areas. Though welcome, the agreement for aid to get into Madaya, reached by the UN on Thursday, may prove to be yet another empty gesture, and does not change the pattern of besiegement across Syria.

Even in Deir Ezzor, an area of 200,000 under siege by ISIS, it is the Syrian regime that is refusing the UN access to the airport which could be used to alleviate the suffering of the local population.

The Government rightly takes pride in being the second largest bilateral donor to the UN Syria appeal. But there is little point in contributing significant amounts of aid if we are not doing enough to make sure it reaches those who need it most.

We must also not allow international aid to become a political tool in the Syrian conflict. It is unacceptable that aid is being distributed in areas under regime control but we are allowing the regime to deny distribution to other areas.

Successive Security Council resolutions state: “United Nations humanitarian agencies and their implementing partners are authorised to use routes across conflict lines”, so why are they not exercising this authority?

We urge you to push the UN, in particular the Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs, to be far bolder in its aid delivery and stop asking unnecessary permission from the Syrian government.

In the case that the UN continues to be denied access to these besieged areas by the Assad regime, the UK should strongly consider airdropping aid to those communities at risk of starvation. In some of these areas, the RAF is already flying anti-ISIS missions, and if necessary this is something we should press our European partners to support.

Like the airdrops by the US in 2014 to the Yazidis in Iraq, and the leadership shown by the last Conservative Government to save lives with similar action in Northern Iraq, there are immediate steps we can take to stop more vulnerable people dying needlessly of hunger. We cannot sit by and watch this happen.

Yours sincerely,
Jo Cox MP
Lord Ashdown of Norton-sub-Hamdon