Syria Border Openings Welcome and Vital, but Fragile: More Must Be Done

Please see statement by Refugees International Senior Advocate for the Middle East Jesse Marks: 

“The government of Syria’s three-month approval for two more border crossings into Northwest Syria is a welcome step toward getting emergency aid into the hard-hit area, but many more people will die from secondary effects of the earthquake if greater action is not taken now. The UN Security Council must take direct action to formalize these additional crossings to guarantee unfettered access for UN agencies into Northwest Syria.

The new Syrian border authorizations should not replace a UN Security Council call for permanent humanitarian pause and unfettered cross-border access to reach over 4 million Syrians in dire need. This option, while acceptable in the short-term, is neither long enough or robust enough to meet the scale of destruction and suffering in Northwest Syria.

Cross-border authorizations should also rely on a more solid legal foundation, not just the word of the Syrian government. Because the authorization came from the Assad government, not the UN, there is no legal or normative basis in which the regime is compelled to leave the borders open. We have seen, time and again, that the Syrian government is more than capable and willing to manipulate emergency crises to expand its control over the country.

Further, three months is wholly insufficient and should be expanded indefinitely. As we saw with the single UN-approved border crossing prior to the earthquake, time matters. Any time restrictions set on border authorizations will profoundly undermine the capacity of UN agencies and Syrian civil society to respond to the expanding needs of millions of people.

Refugees International urges the government of Syria, the UN Secretariat, and the UN Security Council to ensure all humanitarian aid and access through all available border crossings to Northwest Syria remains open indefinitely, in line with applicable International Humanitarian Law provisions, including Common Article 3 to the Geneva Conventions of 1949.

We also urge that all Member States and other donors fully fund the UN’s $395 million humanitarian appeal for lifesaving aid for Syrians severely impacted by the earthquake response.”

For more details on what is needed for the earthquake response in Northwest Syria, see Refugees International’s recent brief. 

For more information or to schedule an interview, please contact Refugees International’s Vice President for Strategic Outreach Sarah Sheffer at 

Cover Photo: A Syrian man who lost most of his family members in last week’s earthquake, sits with one of his surviving sons above the rubble of their collapsed building in Syria’s rebel-held village of Atarib, in the northwestern Aleppo province, on February 14, 2023. Photo by Aaref Watad/AFP via Getty Images.