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In the past year alone, armed groups and states committed horrific abuses in at least 35 countries investigated by Amnesty International.


From Syria to South Sudan millions of people caught up in conflict and violence were spectacularly abandoned by those whose duty it was to protect them. The global response to these atrocities throughout 2014 was shameful and ineffective.

Amnesty International’s global report released today highlights how both countries and armed groups committed horrific violence against civilians including in Syria, where both government forces and armed groups committed war crimes, with little or no consequence.

Refugees were at particular risk. Of the four million refugees who have fled the conflict in Syria, 95 per cent were being hosted in neighbouring countries.

A key driver of the growing refugee crisis is the rising power of non-state armed groups, including the group which calls itself Islamic State (IS).

We were one of the first independent human rights organisations to alert the world to the horrors of what armed groups like IS can do. It was Amnesty who went into Northern Iraq to document these atrocities as they were happening.

We revealed the depravity of Islamic State captivity there, including the alleged involvement of two Australian men who held four women captive. Between September and November last year, we interviewed 42 women and girls who had escaped from the IS. The release of her report into the abduction,rape and sexual slavery of these Yezidi women and girls by IS horrified the world.

As the influence of groups such as Boko Haram, IS and Al Shabaab spills over national borders, more civilians will be subject to abuse, persecution and discrimination.

Governments must stop pretending the protection of civilians is beyond their power and help roll back the tide of suffering of millions.

The  UN Security Council has repeatedly failed to address the crisis in Syria, even in the early years of the conflict, when countless lives could still have been saved. Four years later, more than 200,000 people have died – overwhelmingly civilians – and mostly in attacks by government forces. Around four million people from Syria are now refugees in other countries. More than 7.6 million are displaced inside Syria.

A major consequence of the international community’s inability to protect civilians caught in conflict has helped create one of the worst refugee crises the world has ever seen.

Australia has the means and has a responsibility to increase its refugee intake and do more to protect the people fleeing the violence in places like Syria.

To date though the response has been shamefully inadequate, whilst countries like Jordan and Lebanon have opened up their doors and are providing support to millions the Australian Government’s intake pledge stands at a miserly 1,500 per year for the next three years. This is taken from our existing places in the humanitarian intake.

We have the capacity to provide protection to at least 10,000 Syrian refugees considered by the UN to be most in need. This must to be in addition to the current humanitarian quota of 13,750.

Within the mere 500 we have settled so far are people like 43 year old Khaled, his wife Rhamia and their children. Khaled and his family now live in Sydney’s west after fleeing from Syria to a refugee camp in neighbouring Lebanon.

“We’re feeling very optimistic about our future in Australia. My children will be able to study and do something with their lives. Unfortunately, for the children in Syria there is no future whatsoever. Even for those who left Syria to go to neighbouring countries such as Jordan and Lebanon, I predict there won’t be much of a future for them. Syria has entered into a great conflict and there is no future there whatsoever – not now, maybe not ever.”

Our call to world leaders echo’s Khaled’s you must not turn your back on the people of Syria.

Claire Mallinson is the National Director of Amnesty International Australia.


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