Debate on the situation in Syria

Struan gave the following speech to the European Parliament plenary session in Strasbourg on Tuesday 4 February.


Last November I visited Kurdistan in Northern Iraq to see for myself the refugee camps they have set up to provide shelter for over 230,000 men, women and children fleeing from the bloody civil war in Syria.

I believe we owe a great debt of gratitude to President Masoud Barzani of Kurdistan and to the Kurdish people. Despite the suffering of the Kurds under Saddam Hussein when over 180,000 were massacred in the genocidal Al Anfal campaign, nevertheless they have maintained a tradition of welcoming and sheltering refugees, whom they regard as their brothers and sisters in need. 

Hundreds of thousands of Christians, Turkmen, Shabaks and other ethnic refugees fled to Kurdistan during the insurgency in the rest of Iraq. Sadly that situation is now worsening and civil war in Iraq is imminent.

It is against that background that the Kurds have opened their borders to give shelter to the refugees from Syria and we must provide the KRG with all possible assistance, to enable them to deal with this new and overwhelming tide of starving and exhausted people.

One of the first things we must do is open an EEAS Consular Office in Erbil. President Barzani called for this when he spoke in the AFET Committee two weeks' ago in Brussels. It would be a highly significant gesture of support for Kurdistan if Baroness Ashton followed the example of many EU Member States who have themselves opened consular offices in Erbil.

Struan Stevenson, MEP