Syrian refugees settle in northern Lebanon. The recent violence in Houla may likely increase the number of refugees fleeing the country. Photo by: F. Juez / UNHCR

Several Western nations have expelled Syrian diplomats in protest of the recent violence in Houla, but little has been said on how the international community plans on dealing with the escalating humanitarian crisis in and around the country.

The United States, Australia, Canada, the United Kingdom, Bulgaria, France, Germany, Italy, the Netherlands, Switzerland and Spain were among the countries that have reportedly decided to send Syrian diplomats home Tuesday (May 29). The move was expected to increase pressure on Syrian President Bashar Assad, who has been accused of attacking protesters for more than a year now.

In a press briefing, State department spokesperson Victoria Nuland referred to the decision as a “statement of our extreme disapproval and horror at the massacre.” And it is only but a start of a series of actions the international community is looking into to “pressure” Assad’s regime.

The United States plans to continue providing humanitarian assistance and work with allies to further isolate Assad’s regime, White House Press Secretary Jay Carney said in a separate press briefing. But this does not address concerns on how the international community will be able to force Assad to honor Kofi Annan’s six-point peace plan, which includes allowing aid groups access to embattled areas in the country where humanitarian needs are the highest.

The latest violence is likely to increase the number of refugees fleeing the country as well, Panos Moumtzis told Reuters. The U.N. refugee coordinator for Syrian refugees said the weekend violence “worried us” as people’s initial reaction is to leave in times of instability.

“If there is instability and people are afraid then immediately we see within 24-48 hours an increased wave of people crossing the border,” Moumtzis said.

This spells horror for humanitarian groups struggling to provide for the needs of refugees fleeing to Turkey, Jordan, Lebanon and Iraq, as well as the internally displaced. Since April, the conflict has reportedly displaced an estimated 500,000 Syrians, U.N. officials told Reuters.

The United Nations is scheduled to hold a forum June 5 to discuss humanitarian needs and access in Syria. This will be attended by U.N. officials, diplomats and aid agencies. Annan’s deputy, Jean Marie Guéhenno, is also scheduled to brief the U.N. Security Council Wednesday (May 30) on Annan’s talks with Assad, The Wall Street Journal reports.

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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.

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