Members of Parliament in the UK, Germany, the Netherlands and France, and the European Parliament called on their leaders to authorise urgent airdrops for Syrian civilians starving under siege. In The Netherlands Sjoerd Sjoerdsma and Marietje Schaake both signed.
The letter is an initiative of The Syria Campaign, Heinrich Boll Foundation, Crisis Action and PAX.
Other prominent signatories to the letter include German MP Roderich Kiesewetter, former military commander and foreign policy advisor in Chancellor Merkel’s conservative party, UK MP Jason McCartney a member of David Cameron’s Conservative party and veteran Royal Air Force pilot who served in Iraq, and former French presidential candidate and prominent activist MEP José Bové.
The letter reads:
As members of European Parliaments whose air forces are flying over Syria, we believe it is now time for our leaders to authorise urgent aid airdrops to the country’s trapped and starving civilians.
The denial of food as a weapon of war in Syria should have ended two months ago. Much needed food and medicine was expected to reach desperate communities within days of a partial ceasefire and an agreement that brutal starvation sieges would be lifted. Yet two months on many areas are still on the brink of starvation. Most have yet to see a single aid truck.
The politicians added:
“Our countries, the UK, France, Netherlands and Germany are all flying in Syrian airspace as part of the anti-Isis effort. If the UN lacks the ability to deliver aid, we have the capacity and presence to act. And high-altitude airdrops would keep our brave pilots safe.”
The letter draws particular attention to the plight of 8,000 civilians trapped in the town of Daraya near Damascus. Negotiations to enter the town in the past few weeks have failed. The UN Under-Secretary for Humanitarian Affairs, Stephen O’Brien, described the situation this week as “extremely dire”.
The town of Madaya, where dozens starved to death at the beginning of the year, still has only occasional aid deliveries. The letter goes on to say:
“These ongoing starvation sieges are a deep scar on the conscience of Europe. We know from the numbers of refugees fleeing to safety and the increasing threat from Isis what happens when we ignore the plight of civilians in Syria.”
Jo Cox MP, one of the organisers of the letter added:
“It’s civilians who suffer most when siege is used as a weapon of war. Women in towns like Daraya cannot breastfeed their babies because of malnutrition. Children are eating leaves to keep the hunger away. Countries like the UK are together giving billions in aid to protect Syrian civilians, but it’s not getting to those most in need. We cannot afford to wait until we see more deaths from starvation, we should start airdrops of food and medicine to besieged areas across Syria today.”
1.1 million people live under siege in Syria according to the Siege Watch research PAX and TSI did?, with 47 out of 50 areas are besieged by the Syrian government.