Speaking today during Statements on the humanitarian situation in Syria, Southern Sudan and the Central African Republic, Sinn Fein Spokesperson on EU Affairs said that all three conflicts have created catastrophic humanitarian disasters. She asked the Minister for Trade and Development, Joe Costello what his government intends to do to heighten awareness among the public so that the crises’ realities resonate fully, rather than create ‘white noise’ in background.
“It is well documented that these three conflicts have created their own disastrous and wide ranging humanitarian conflicts, as all the statistics tell us.”
“At least 2,000 people have been killed in fighting in the Central African Republic (C.A.R.) and approximately 1 million people, or a quarter of the population, have been displaced by the fighting.
“The fighting has taken on a worrying sectarian trend, with the UN warning that the there is a high risk of the violence spiralling into genocide.
“Before recent fighting broke out the C.A.R. was one of the poorest countries in the world and was long troubled socio-economically despite the country being rich in gold, diamonds and uranium reserves, which have been largely extracted and exploited by western based Multi-National Corporations (MNCs). This has led many to view violence as more to do with political control over access to natural resource wealth, and speculation that religious tensions are being stoked split and worsened by foreign meddling, to facilitate this.”
“South Sudan is also facing its own humanitarian crisis. Tensions have been rapidly increasing since splits in the ruling governing party led to outbreaks of violence and a rebellion.
“The violence is the worst South Sudan has seen since it won independence from Sudan in 2011, and it has killed thousands of civilians and driven more than half a million from their homes.
“While the two sides have agreed to meet in Ethiopia for peace talks, both sides are accusing the other of continuing the violence and the discussions have been suspended until February 7.
“There are deep ethnic, political and personal grievances that will be hard to overcome when talks restart.
“South Sudan holds the third-largest oil reserves in sub-Saharan Africa after Angola and Nigeria, but it remains one of the continent's least developed countries.”
“The Syrian conflict, which started in March 2011, has also created a monumental humanitarian crisis, with the United Nations describing it as the greatest humanitarian crisis in modern history, with more than 9 million people in urgent need of assistance.
“It’s welcoming to see some dialogue between opposition rebel groups and the Syrian government at the Geneva 2 talks. Although it’s unlikely there will be a major breakthrough at these talks to solve the conflict, there is the possibility that vital humanitarian corridors can be opened up to assist the most vulnerable besieged citizens in towns and cities across the country.
“At present it’s estimated that over 6.3 million people are in critical need of food and agriculture assistance. In June 2013 it was just over 3 million. The number in critical need of aid and assistance has doubled in just over half a year.
“It must be noted that the 2.3 million external refugees are just those registered with the UNHCR. It doesn’t include those internally displaced or Palestinian refugees, because Palestinian refugees come under the UNRWA programme.
“I welcome that this Government has so far provided €2 million to the UN to support emergency programmes in the C.A.R., 40 tonnes of emergency supplies for South Sudan, and €14 million to the humanitarian crisis in Syria, with a further €12 million to be provided in 2014.
“At present the EU has agreed to accept 30,000 Syrian refugees from Lebanon under a UNHCR refugee resettlement programme, but our Government is only going to accept 90 of these refugees.
“Ireland also remains the only country in the EU with no single unified system of refugee application, which leads to huge back logs and asylum seekers ending up in direct provision for years on end. This needs to be reassessed.
“While I welcome the debate in the Seanad on the humanitarian crises in these 3 countries, I’m calling on all to remember the peace and human rights activist Margaretta D’Arcy, who is currently incarcerated in Limerick jail for protesting against the illegal use of Shannon Airport by foreign militaries in Iraq and Afghanistan; armies whose actions assisted in creating their own humanitarian crises in these countries and which are still on-going having yet to be resolved. “