Last month, along with several of my Labour colleagues, I wrote to Prime Minister Theresa May about the unfolding humanitarian catastrophe in Syria. Responding to the calls for airdrops in Syria, the UK Government said that “preparations for airdrops will now take place and go forward rapidly because there isn’t a moment to lose”.
Almost 200 days later, thousands of Syrians are still waiting, none more desperately than the 275,000 civilians trapped in besieged East Aleppo.
Here is the full text of the letter to the Prime Minister:
10 Downing Street
Dear Prime Minister,
In May, responding to the humanitarian catastrophe unfolding in Syria, the government said that “preparations for airdrops will now take place and go forward rapidly because there isn’t a moment to lose”. Almost 200 days later and thousands of Syrians are still waiting, none more desperately than the 275,000 civilians trapped in besieged East Aleppo. This is now the epicentre of the crisis. The Assad and Putin regimes are moving to ‘exterminate’ all those who have not already been killed as a consequence of their indiscriminate bombing campaigns.
In the last ten days all hospitals there, including the last children’s hospital, have been bombed out of operation. Centres belonging to the heroic volunteers of the White Helmets have also been destroyed. The last aid delivery was three months ago and medical workers estimate we have less than two weeks before all food runs out. With our Royal Air Force already operational in the air over Syria, we are calling on the you to urgently authorise the airdropping of aid to besieged civilian populations. It is simply not acceptable that during the biggest aid operation in the UN’s history, and in the full glare of the world’s media, nearly 100,000 children are facing the slowest, cruelest death because we cannot reach them with food and medical supplies.
Airdropping aid is only ever a last resort, but who can credibly claim we have not reached that point? The Syrian government is refusing all attempts to allow access to UN relief agencies whilst simultaneously dropping chlorine gas onto civilian populations.
Our country has dependable partners on the ground in Aleppo, such as the White Helmets, who are ready to coordinate collection and distribution of the airdrops if we can summon the courage to carry them out.
The time for excuses is over.
Jo Stevens MP