The ongoing crisis in Syria is unprecedented in recent history, with the enormous humanitarian impact reverberating across the region. The devastating violence has caused more than 2.1 million refugees to seek protection in neighbouring countries, in addition to the more than 4 million people who have found themselves displaced inside their own country. With almost 7 million people in urgent need of assistance, an immediate and sustained response from the international community is clearly required.
Ireland has been unwavering in its support to the international humanitarian response. To date, we have provided almost €11 million to the relief effort and are one of the world's most generous donors – on a per capita basis - to the response to this crisis. Through trusted NGO partners here in Ireland, as well as the UN and the Red Cross-Red Crescent movement, we are playing a considerable part in the international effort to meet the massive needs, both inside Syria and in the wider region.
As I am sure the Deputy agrees, it is imperative that the European Union is to the fore in rallying the international community to help alleviate the severe and unconscionable suffering of those affected by the Syrian crisis. Notably, the EU has to date mobilised almost €1.8 billion in assistance from both the Commission and member states, making this the largest international contribution since the crisis began.
Ireland has been consistent in its efforts at EU level to ensure the necessary attention is given by the international community to this crisis. Ireland has used every opportunity to call for all parties to the conflict to fully respect and be held accountable for violations of international humanitarian law. Moreover, throughout our EU Presidency in the first half of this year, Ireland repeatedly underlined the gravity of the humanitarian situation, including through discussion at the EU Foreign Affairs Council. Most recently, following discussions on Syria at the recent Gymnich - Informal Meeting of Foreign Affairs Ministers - held in Vilnius on 6 and 7 September, the High Representative, Baroness Catherine Ashton, issued a press statement highlighting the need for the EU to reaffirm our commitment to the people of Syria and to support them in every way possible through humanitarian assistance. Ireland strongly endorses this statement.
Additional information not given on the floor of the House
Ireland will continue to encourage the various UN agencies to maintain the unprecedented mutual co-operation that has been forged over the last two years in response to this crisis. Furthermore, we will persist in highlighting the vulnerable position of Syria's neighbouring countries which have found themselves severely strained as a result of the large scale influxes of refugees.
In order to assess the current situation on the ground, I will be travelling to the region in the next week. With the UN Secretary General announcing a further humanitarian pledging conference for Syria in January 2014, Ireland will renew its already significant efforts at European level and internationally to galvanise support from the international community for an enhanced humanitarian response in Syria and its neighbouring countries, which should be understood as a vital complement to the ongoing attention being given to finding a political solution to this crisis.