Another humanitarian challenge in Syria: Refused visas

U.N. Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs Operations Director John Ging at the fourth Syrian Humanitarian Forum in Geneva, Switzerland. Photo by: Jean-Marc Ferré / United Nations – Geneva / CC BY-NC-ND

In a country where providing much-needed humanitarian assistance has been riddled with challenges, aid workers now have to face another obstacle.

John Ging, operations director at the U.N. Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs, said visas for the agency’s international staff who are seeking entry to Syria have been pending or refused, Reuters reports.

It is not clear why the visas are being blocked, but Ging said the U.N agency has been clarifying the issue with Syrian authorities “on a daily basis,” Agence France-Presse reports. But what is clear is that preventing foreign aid workers from entering the conflict-afflicted country goes against the Syria humanitarian response plan, which the government claims it has “largely respected.”

The government agreed to a $180 million humanitarian plan in June, which includes allowing some aid agencies to provide humanitarian assistance to those affected by fighting in the country. But humanitarians continue to face “tremendous” political obstruction from the government, an “incredibly” dangerous operational environment and capacity issues among organizations, according to Ging.

Ging disclosed all these to reporters Monday (July 16) at the fourth Syria Humanitarian Forum in Geneva, where he again appealed for donors to fund efforts meant to address the increasing needs of Syrians in and outside the country. U.N. response plans for both Syrians in the country and those who fled to neighboring countries remain significantly underfunded.

The appeal has received “positive reaction” at the forum, Ging said. Some donors pledged to come forward with more funding, while others such as the United States, the United Kingdom and the European Union, made “specific pledges,” Ging said. The money will be crucial for aid agencies to scale up their operations.

Whether these promises will translate “concretely” and “specifically” will be seen in the days ahead. Most donors, European Institute for Security Studies senior researcher Luis Peral said in an interview with DW, are not “supplying the money they had pledged.”

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About the author

  • Jenny Lei Ravelo

    Jenny Lei Ravelo is a Devex Senior Reporter based in Manila. She covers global health, with a particular focus on the World Health Organization, and other development and humanitarian aid trends in Asia Pacific. Prior to Devex, she wrote for ABS-CBN, one of the largest broadcasting networks in the Philippines, and was a copy editor for various international scientific journals. She received her journalism degree from the University of Santo Tomas.