Belgian parliament calls for durable solutions for Syrian refugees

On 22 December 2021 the Belgian parliament adopted a motion calling for additional efforts to ensure durable solutions to the Syrian refugee crisis. An important step forward, according to Refugee Protection Watch (RPW), which calls on the Belgian government to immediately implement this parliamentary motion. 

In 2022, Syrian refugees continue to be the largest refugee population in the world. In total, there are 6.6 million Syrian refugees, accounting for 25 percent of the global refugee population. A disproportionately high number of them (83%) are hosted in the region. In addition, another 6.7 million Syrians are internally displaced within their own country.

And the end of the Syrian refugee crisis is not yet in sight. Syria remains, in the words of the United Nations Secretary-General, a “living nightmare.” Research predicts that if no lasting solutions are found to the Syrian crisis, another 6 million Syrians will flee their country over the next decade. 

Durable solutions

Against this gloomy background, on 22 December 2021 the Belgian parliament passed a motion initiated by MP Els Van Hoof (CD&V) calling on the government to work on “durable solutions” for Syrian refugees: quality protection and local integration in neighboring countries; the creation of the conditions for a safe, voluntary and dignified return in Syria; and resettlement to third countries. 

Specifically, the motion asks the Belgian government, among other things, to: 

  • Take an “active leadership role within national, European and international fora in the development and implementation of a comprehensive and more ambitious strategy and response to the Syrian refugee crisis, based on UNHCR’s framework of durable solutions to international refugee crises.”
  • Make “additional efforts” to provide quality reception and protection – both humanitarian, structural and peacebuilding – for Syrian refugees in the region. In doing so, the motion refers, among other things, to funding instruments at the EU level, UN humanitarian funds, and the federal “peacebuilding” and “society building” budgets. Furthermore, the parliament asks to “support civil society initiatives to promote durable solutions to the Syrian refugee crisis.” 
  • The parliament also explicitly asks that any Belgian financial support “pays particular attention to further localization of aid and always ask for special attention to the development of equal partnerships” with local civil society organizations. 
  • Continue to reiterate at the European and international level the message that there can be no safe, voluntary and dignified return to Syria. 
  • Identify options for an international mechanism that actively monitors the conditions for safe, voluntary and dignified returns in Syria. 
  • Take diplomatic action against the increasing number of forced deportations of Syrian refugees in neighboring countries such as Lebanon and Turkey, and to consistently condemn illegal “pushbacks” of refugees at Europe’s external borders. 
  • Make an additional effort to strengthen the UNHCR refugee resettlement program. 

Rapid operationalization

Refugee Protection Watch (RPW) has long been campaigning for such measures, and has been in close contact with several members of the Belgian parliament to this end. 

RPW is very pleased with this ambitious package of measures, which sends a strong signal that there can be no “business as usual” in the Syria region. We call on the Belgian government to immediately implement the different measures outlined in the parlamentary motion, and to take an initiative to build a coalition of like-minded EU member states to actively push for additional measures aimed at better protection of Syrian refugees. Such a coalition can play an important role in the run-up to, and during, key policy moments such as the annual EU/UN Syria Conference in Brussels and the ongoing review of the United Nations’s Regional Operational Framework.