World leaders pledge £7bn for Syria refugees

British PM wants to raise money to create jobs and provide education in the region

Newstalk, Syria, British PM David Cameron, German Chancellor Angela Merkel, UN Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon, Iran Foreign Minister Mohammad Javad Zarif, US Secretary of State John Kerr

File photo: United Nations

World leaders have pledged more than £7bn to tackle the Syrian refugee crisis - the largest amount ever raised for a humanitarian crisis in one day.

Some £4.1bn was promised for this year at a conference in London - and a further £3.4bn will be handed over by 2020, David Cameron announced.

Britain is donating an extra £510m, taking the total UK funding to £2.3bn.

Despite the promised aid, the United Nations and Syria's neighbours are struggling to cope with the number of refugees fleeing the war, and say they need £6.2bn for 2016 alone.

The vast majority of Syria's 4m-plus refugees are in Turkey, Jordan and Lebanon.

The PM said the three countries have agreed to educate refugee children to ensure there is no "lost generation".

He said the 70-nation conference had sent out a clear message to the people of Syria: "We will stand with you and we will support you for as long as it takes to secure peace in Syria, to restore stability to the region and to give Syrian refugees a chance to go back and rebuild their homes and their country."

Mr Cameron also urged Russia to use its influence with the Syrian government to bring an end to the five-year civil war. 

United Nations Secretary General Ban Ki-moon hailed the aid conference as "a great success".

"Never has the international community raised so much money on a single day for a single crisis," he added.
Past aid conferences for Syria have failed to raise even half the amount raised in London.

However, former foreign secretary David Miliband, head of the humanitarian charity the International Rescue Committee, warned earlier that the problem of Syria's refugees could not be solved overnight.

Unless significant support was given to Syria's neighbours struggling to cope with the influx, the consequences would reach Europe, he said.

"I think we've got to end the fiction that this is a short-term problem that is going to go away," said Mr Miliband.

"All the indications are that the war is raging and even if the war was to end tomorrow there is no way Syria is going to be built in anything like a couple of years.

"It's a long-term problem and these countries have to be helped with it and the evident consequence when they're not helped is that people come to Europe."

Rebels in the Syrian city of Aleppo are now surrounded from the north, south and east following advances by Syrian President Bashar al Assad's forces.

Turkish Prime Minister Ahmet Davutoglu told the conference the humanitarian corridor between Turkey and Aleppo has been cut off as Mr Assad's troops inflict a "siege of starvation" on the city.

He said they are using the same tactics they used in the besieged town of Madaya, where dozens have starved to death.