x Abu Dhabi, UAETuesday 25 July 2017

UAE will supervise Dh1.1bn Syria refugee aid

The UAE's Dh1.1 billion pledge to Syrian refugees will be delivered by the country itself, and not go through intermediaries, says the Foreign Minister.

Jordan has received some of the highest number of Syrian refugees so far. According to the country's  government, more than 300,000 have fled there. Getty Images
Jordan has received some of the highest number of Syrian refugees so far. According to the country's  government, more than 300,000 have fled there. Getty Images
ABU DHABI // More than Dh1.1 billion in aid pledged to Syrian refugees by the UAE will be administered directly by the Government rather than any other organisation.
In a tweet, the Foreign Minister, Sheikh Abdullah, quoted Sheikh Mohammed bin Zayed, Crown Prince of Abu Dhabi and Deputy Supreme Commander of the Armed Forces, as saying that the aid would go directly to the Syrian people and would be supervised by the UAE only.
The clarification comes amid concerns raised by the Syrian opposition coalition that the United Nations' relief strategy had been drafted in cooperation with the regime in Damascus.
The UN has said previously that it was not sure how the UAE planned to channel the money. Andrew Harper, the UN's High Commissioner for Refugees (UNHCR) representative in Jordan, said it remained unclear exactly how the funds would be used, but described the donation as "fantastic" and said it would "give back confidence to Jordan to keep their borders open".
Jordan has received some of the highest number of Syrian refugees so far. According to the country's  government, more than 300,000 have fled there.
The Zaatari camp is home to more than 65,000 refugees alone.
The UAE Red Crescent is now the body most likely to administer the UAE's Dh1.1bn aid package, according to its chairman, Ahmed Al Mazroui.
The organisation announced yesterday that it had started work on a new Dh12 million refugee camp made up of caravans able to house 6,000 families - a number that may increase. It stressed that the camp would be entirely separate to the Zaatari camp and follow a different management.
Running the camp will cost the Red Crescent Dh225m a year.
The UAE's pledge was made last week at the International Donors Conference for Syria held in Kuwait, where it was the joint-largest donation along with offers from Saudi Arabia and Kuwait.
"The UAE has taken part in all efforts to help the people of Syria and supported Arab and international initiatives in the hope of putting an end to the tragedy suffered and to achieve their legitimate aspirations of a free and dignified life," Sheikh Mohammed told the conference.
He said the donation was to stress the UAE's support for the Syrian people and described the bloodshed in the country as "horrific".
"This daily destruction that people ... face shakes human emotions and puts human consciences worldwide under a great challenge," he said.
"The plights Syrian civilians face gives the international community legitimate, humanitarian and moral responsibility and it must not remain with its hands tied from ensuring the protection of Syrian citizens."
He added that international efforts were needed to meet the needs of the refugees.
"This grave responsibility falls on the international community to rescue the Syrian people based on their legal, humanitarian and ethical obligations ... it is time to fulfil these commitments," he said.
The Red Crescent had already spent more than Dh42m on aid for refugees in Jordan and Lebanon.
So far it has helped about 45,000 Syrians families in both countries - 32,974 in Jordan and 12,000 in Lebanon.
The UAE had previously donated Dh91.8m to the UNHCR and has built the biggest field hospital on the Jordan-Syrian border.
The hospital has treated more than 30,000 Syrians, many with war wounds.
"The UAE has been not only generous but actually asks us what we need money for," Mr Harper said.
osalem@thenational.ae