The Isle of Man Government is strengthening its support for organisations dealing with the humanitarian crisis caused by the conflict in Syria.
An additional £973,000 will be allocated from the Island’s international development budget to the United Nations High Commission for Refugees (UNHCR). This will take the total provided by the Isle of Man to £1.5million since the conflict began.
The Council of Ministers announced the significant new funding stream this week while reaffirming its position in relation to the United Kingdom’s Syrian Vulnerable Persons Resettlement Programme.
After careful consideration of the issues, Ministers agreed to continue the direction taken under the previous Manx Government. It is felt that the Isle of Man cannot offer the level of support and specialist help needed to offer a home to these vulnerable people.
Instead, almost £1million will be provided to UNHCR from the Island’s existing budget for international development. This will fund relief efforts aimed at saving, protecting and rebuilding the lives of refugees forced to flee their homes in the face of violence and persecution.
Chief Minister Howard Quayle MHK had given a commitment to revisit the Government’s stance after receiving a petition calling for the Isle of Man to take in up to 25 Syrian refugees by 2020.
Mr Quayle said: ‘The Council of Ministers believes the Isle of Man can offer more effective support to a greater number of people by directing funds to the UN High Commission for Refugees. Our £1million will provide life-saving humanitarian aid for thousands of vulnerable people in the form of food, medicine, fuel, clothing and blankets. The option of opening our doors to a small number of Syrian refugees was fully considered, but it was felt that we could maximise the impact of our contribution by working with established international agencies.’
He added: ‘The Isle of Man is a responsible country that recognises the part it has to play in creating a better future for all the world’s citizens. We have all been deeply moved by the scenes of refugees fleeing Syria, many of whom are risking their lives in making their way to Europe. There is a genuine desire within our community to help and it is a reflection of the caring nature of Manx people that they are prepared to open up their homes to take in refugees. However, it is important that support is provided in a coordinated way and the positive action taken by the Council of Ministers will improve the lives of many thousands of people.’
The contribution to the UN High Commission for Refugees is part of the Isle of Man’s ongoing commitment to international development, as outlined in the Programme for Government.
The Government is currently looking at the effectiveness of the structure in place to deliver this support and is continuing to work with charities to establish a positive way forward.