According to the Commission of Inquiry on Syria, 14.6 million Syrians are dependent on humanitarian aid, 12 million face acute food insecurity and nine in ten now live below the poverty line.
Last month, humanitarian aid workers warned that the pledged funds for relief operations were too small to help, said Paulo Pinheiro, chair of the inquiry:
“Given this disturbing reality, it is unscrupulous that the discussions in the Security Council are focused on closing the only remaining authorized border crossing for aidrather than how to expand access to life-saving aid across the country and through any suitable route.”
Mr Pinheiro referred to the imminent closure of the Bab al-Hawa humanitarian border crossing to northern Syria from Turkey, which requires a UN Security Council resolution to remain open after July 10.
Bab al-Hawa is the latest of four international cross-border operations still being conducted in Syria after a lack of consensus among Security Council members about keeping the other operations open as they were from 2014 to early 2020.
The only cross-border operation still approved by the Security Council, aid reaches about 2.4 million of them every month, a vital lifeline for the people of northwestern Syria.
“The parties to the conflict have themselves consistently failed to fulfill their obligations to enable and facilitate the rapid and unimpeded passage of humanitarian aid to civilians in need through Syria,” Mr. Pinheiro. “These and all other barriers to humanitarian aid must be removed, including those created by unilateral sanctions, even if they are unintended.”
The top rights expert also expressed concern about whether it is safe to return for the more than 13.4 million Syrians who have fled their homes.
†Millions of refugees who have fled the country are now under increasing pressure to return‘ said Mr Pinheiro. “When UNHCR recently surveyed refugees, nearly 92.8 percent said they have no plans to return next year.”
The investigation — launched by the Human Rights Council in August 2011 to investigate alleged violations of international law — has raised further alarm over the many thousands of relatives of foreign fighters who continue to be held in appalling conditions in camps in northeast Syria.
Al Hol’s nightmare continues
†We must remind this agency that 40,000 children are still being held in appalling conditions in the Al Hol and Al Roj camps in northeastern Syria, along with 20,000 adults, mostly women,” said Mr Pinheiro. “Insecurity in Al Hol remains high, with at least 24 murders reported this year. Even humanitarian workers have been targeted; a Red Crescent nurse was killed and an ICRC doctor stabbed.”
In response to the commission’s chairman, Syria’s representative Hussam Edin Aala rejected “the allegations and fallacies” he said were contained in the Commission’s reports.
He also refused any attempt “to promote the establishment of new international mechanisms against Syria”, along with “prefabricated allegations, controversial decisions and false reports”.