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Brussels conference on Syria aims to raise billions for decade-long crisis

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By Euronews
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Brussels conference on Syria aims to raise billions for decade-long crisis
Copyright  KHALIL MAZRAAWI/AFP

The international community is being asked to donate over €8bn towards addressing the most critical humanitarian issues affecting Syria and neighbouring countries that host its refugees.

With no end in sight after 10 years of war, the Brussels V Conference on 'Supporting the future of Syria and the region' aims to help the people most affected by the war, providing financial assistance to the refugees and the humanitarian organisations involved in providing relief.

The event is being held virtually Monday and Tuesday, with over 50 countries represented and according to Dominik Bartsch, Jordan's representative at the United Nations Refugee Agency (UNHCR), the pandemic has made life even more difficult that usual.

"There was a family with four daughters, all of them school-going age, and the mother had one smartphone. On that one smartphone, the mother had to decide which child can follow which lesson," Bartsch told Euronews.

"Many of the refugees in urban areas, but also some in the camps, were actually able to hold on to a job in the informal sector, but that source of support has completely fallen by the wayside."

According to the European Commission, the EU's Regional Trust Fund in response to the Syrian Crisis has given €2.3bn to countries affected by the war between 2014 and 2021.

The country most impacted, Lebanon, received €1bn, with the remainder going to Jordan, Turkey and Iraq.

But the money doesn't just go towards the millions of Syrian refugees. It is also given to the millions of locals that have had to share the public services and job market.

Some of the projects covered by the funds include education, healthcare, water sanitation and hygiene, as well as female empowerment.

The Regional Trust Fund was extended by the EU at the end of 2020, for one final year, with the expectation that after this it will be funded for the next seven years within the bloc's long-term 2021-27 budget.

The European Parliament favours this extension, accepting that it is necessary until a long-term decision can be made.

But Isabel Santos, a Portuguese MEP that Chair's the delegation responsible for relations with Syria and its neighbouring countries wants the allocation of funds to be scrutinised more effectively, particularly regarding Turkey, which hosts around 3.6 million refugees according to the UNHCR.

"We have to put a brake on the political misappropriation being committed by President Erdogan regarding the refugee situation. He cannot hold the EU hostage to the refugee situation and use them as a human shield for his political manoeuvres," Santos told Euronews.