ONE year after British Jews dug deep for Syrian refugees fleeing the fighting, World Jewish Relief has reported back on the 17,500 people the community helped to save.
Last year’s appeal saw Jewish families raise £944,000 for the refugee crisis triggered by the devastating civil war in Syria, which has so far claimed 400,000 lives. The community has only once raised a higher amount – in 2004, following the Boxing Day tsunami.
In dozens of camps, thousands of life-saving winter kits including blankets and coats were distributed alongside medicine, food and water, as WJR worked with local partners to help registered refugees in Turkey and Greece. The charity has been providing psychological support and legal advice to hundreds of people.
WJR chief executive Paul Anticoni said the community’s “outstanding generosity” had been spurred by last year’s photo of the three-year-old Syrian boy Alan Kurdi, whose tiny body washed up on a beach after the boat carrying him capsized.
However, having coordinated the community’s response to the crisis, WJR warned in a report this week that it now needed to focus on “long-term solutions” for some of the 4.8 million people who had fled Syria.
For example, only 10 percent of the 2.7 million Syrian refugees in Turkey are living in camps, it said, meaning female refugees living in urban areas were particularly vulnerable to sexual exploitation. This has led to the establishment of a Women’s Support Centre in Gaziantep, working with International Blue Crescent.
Likewise, the charity warned that almost two-thirds of refugee children were not being formally educated, a situation leading to a “lost generation… without the social, emotional or intellectual development that regular attendance at school provides”.
Humanitarian aid workers said they stepped in after they noticed families were often spending their limited money on basic survival needs, with educational needs taking a back seat. “By providing winter kits, we have removed a crucial barrier to people enrolling their children at school because many families were understandably prioritising expenditure on heating over schools,” they said.
The report went on: “Children who received the winter packages have been far more likely to come back to their temporary education centres and access much-needed services there.”
In its report, WJR praised the Jewish community in Greece for being “particularly responsive”.
It said the community had been active in gathering clothing and donating money for some of the 59,000 refugees “stranded” in the cash-strapped Mediterranean country since arriving there.
It also outlined its work with some of the Syrian refugees being resettled in the UK, particularly a pilot programme in Bradford that was helping new arrivals to find work.