The European Commission and the High Representative of the EU for Foreign Affairs have adopted a joint communication this week, mapping out the EU response to the Syrian conflict.
In particular, the communication urges Member States to admit any Syrians arriving at the external borders of the Union and to respond positively to UNHCR’s call for support of the humanitarian admission of 10,000 Syrian refugees from countries in the Middle East and North Africa as well as the resettlement of an additional 2,000 Syrian nationals, mainly refugees belonging to particularly vulnerable groups.
In addition, the Commission calls for the adoption of a ‘generous attitude’ towards the granting of humanitarian visas to persons displaced by the Syrian crisis who have family members present in the EU.
The Communication highlights that it is not appropriate to add Syria to the common list of countries subject to the airport transit visa requirement as requested by certain Member States. Currently, eleven countries belonging to the Schengen area impose airport transit visas on Syrian nationals.
A Regional Protection Programme, with a current total budget of over € 13.2 million is expected to be operational by the end of 2013. This is aimed at strengthening the long-term capacity of the countries neighbouring Syria to help them to deal with refugees in line with international standards. According to the Commission, the programme will include a strong protection component, such as registration and administrative capacity building, as well as access for refugees to socioeconomic rights such as education and health care.
The EU acknowledges that the conflict is also endangering the stability of Syria’s neighbouring countries, Lebanon and Jordan. UNHCR has estimated that the total number of people of concern stand at 1.7 million. According to the communication, conservative estimates indicate that 6.8 million people are in need of aid, 4.25 million are internally displaced (IDPs), and UNHCR foresees the possibility of 3.45 million refugees by the end of this year.
The EU intends to increase humanitarian assistance by € 250 million to reach a total of € 515 million both inside Syria and in its neighbouring countries for the remainder of 2013.