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9 September 2015

UNICEF Australia welcomes the Federal Government’s emergency humanitarian announcement that it will act quickly to provide 12,000 permanent resettlement places for refugees affected by conflict in Syria and to spend a further $44m in delivering frontline aid to vulnerable refugee communities in neighbouring countries.

UNICEF Australia said more than four years of fighting and conflict in Syria had forced 2 million children to find refuge outside of Syria and more would flee as fighting increased ahead of the coming winter.

“This is a positive and necessary response to this unprecedented humanitarian emergency, with many children on the move and at risk," UNICEF Australia chief technical officer Amy Lamoin said.

“As we’ve seen in the past week, children are the most vulnerable to risky and dangerous journeys, but they also face exploitation, forced labour, early child marriage and sexual violence while they wait in camps and tented settlements for a permanent and safe solution,” she said.

UNICEF Australia stressed the Government’s emergency intake should be based on need, target the most vulnerable, and should be non-discriminatory, and said it deferred to its sister United Nations agency, the UNHCR to make the assessments on this, recognising children are always the most vulnerable during times of conflict.

UNICEF Australia congratulated the Government’s decision to take 12,000 refugees as a life saving measure for children and families.

However, until a permanent solution could be found to ongoing fighting and conflict in the region, UNICEF Australia said the movement of people would continue and additional measures may need to be considered. This is a protracted conflict that requires a sustained humanitarian commitment.

UNICEF Australia cautioned Government on limiting its intake to people from camps outside of Syria, saying its colleagues were working for a vast majority of refugees living in host communities or informal tented settlements.

“UNICEF knows that the vast majority of people who have fled conflict in Syria are not in camps, but living in host communities,” Ms Lamoin said. “Their issues are compounded by the fact they cannot work, and many are effectively compelled to commit their children to work or find other, often dangerous solutions to meet ongoing and rising costs. 

Just 46% of UNICEF’s work for the children of Syria is currently funded – a shortfall of almost $500m. UNICEF is the lead agency on water and sanitation, health, education and child protection - and stretched on all these fronts. 

"UNICEF also welcomes the commitment of the Australian Government to allocate additional funds to this humanitarian emergency, and invites the public to continue to do all they can to help protect and meet the needs of children in crisis. This generation and future generations are in desperate need,” Ms Lamoin said.