EU offers nearly $300 million for Syria refugees in Lebanon, Jordan

Palestinians who fled the fighting in Syria carry signs during a protest, asking for help in improving their living conditions and demanding humanitarian asylum, in front of UN offices in Beirut on Dec 4, 2014. The sign (left) reads, "We don't want a
Palestinians who fled the fighting in Syria carry signs during a protest, asking for help in improving their living conditions and demanding humanitarian asylum, in front of UN offices in Beirut on Dec 4, 2014. The sign (left) reads, "We don't want aid, we demand asylum." -- PHOTO: REUTERS

BRUSSELS (AFP) - The EU offered €180 million (S$290 million) on Thursday to help Lebanon and Jordan cope with a massive influx of refugees from Syria, where there is no end in sight to the civil war.

The European Commission said the aid package would help deal with the longer-term problems of the 1.1 million refugees in Lebanon and 630,000 in Jordan.

Some of the funds will also go to Syria itself where the conflict has displaced around half of the population - nearly 11 million people.

As the conflict rages, with the death toll mounting steadily to now some 200,000, there is little prospect that the more than three million Syrians who have fled to neighbouring countries and beyond will be able to return home any time soon.

The package "addresses in particular the education of children and young adults... as well as measures to improve the resilience of the refugees as well as the communities hosting them through economic development activities," a Commission statement said.

The announcement comes after the UN's World Food Programme (WFP) said Wednesday it was halting food aid to some 1.7 million Syrian refugees because of funding shortfalls.

The WFP said it needed US$64 million (S$84 million) to fund its food voucher programme for December alone and that "many donor commitments remain unfulfilled".

The EU is a major humanitarian aid donor in the region. It has provided about €1.5 billion since the conflict erupted in 2011 while the 28 member states have separately provided about €1.4 billion, according to Commission figures.

"We are ready and willing to bring a continued support to the people of Syria and to the neighbouring countries hosting Syrian refugees," EU foreign affairs head Federica Mogherini said.

"We are determined to play our role to the full and bring a lasting political solution to this regional crisis," Mogherini said.