Rich countries including Britain are failing Syrian refugees, report warns

Twenty-eight of the world’s richest nations have pledged to take in 123,000 people between them, but have resettled only half this number to date

Jonathan Owen
Tuesday 29 March 2016 00:00 BST
Many thousands of refugees are still languishing in temporary camps close to the Syrian border
Many thousands of refugees are still languishing in temporary camps close to the Syrian border (AP)

Britain and other rich countries are failing to do their fair share in giving sanctuary to Syrian refugees, with just 1.39 per cent having been resettled by wealthy nations, according to a new report by Oxfam.

This comes ahead of a high level meeting being held by the United Nations in Geneva tomorrow to discuss a refugee crisis which has seen almost five million people flee Syria.

Twenty-eight of the world’s richest nations have pledged to take in 129,966 people between them. But this is less than a third of what they should be committing to; and just 67,000 people have been resettled to date, states the report.

Campaigners are demanding that Britain and other wealthy countries should take in more refugees, with the UN High Commissioner for Refugees having estimated that almost half a million are very vulnerable and in urgent need of being resettled.

Just three countries, Canada, Germany, and Norway, have made pledges exceeding their ‘fair share’, something which is calculated according to the size of their economy. But 25 out of the 28 countries are falling far short in the number they have promised to take in.

By the end of this year, Britain will have taken in just 5,571 people – just 22 per cent of the 25,067 it has pledged to rehome.

The UK ranks 13th out of 28 countries in terms of failing to resettle the number of people it has promised to take in. Some countries have performed even worse. Take Japan, Russia, and South Korea. Between them they have pledged to resettle more than 100,000 people yet they have yet to take in a single Syrian refugee, according to Oxfam’s analysis.

“To date the response to calls of increased resettlement of vulnerable refugees has been disappointing, and the conference is an opportunity for states to mark a change of course,” says the report.

Campaigners are demanding that rich countries take in 10 per cent of Syrian refugees, some 481,000 people, by the end of this year.

Syrian refugees attend a French lesson at university in eastern France. To date, the world’s richest nations have resettled just 67,000 people between them (AFP)

Mark Goldring, chief executive of Oxfam GB said: “It's shocking that while people continue to flee Syria most countries have failed to provide a safe home for the most vulnerable.”

He added: “Lebanon, Jordan and Turkey are struggling to cope with almost five million Syrian refugees. Rich nations should be doing more to share the responsibility and offer refuge to some of the most vulnerable women and children affected by this crisis.”

Ariane Rummery, spokeswoman for UNHCR, said: “Refugee flows are a global responsibility, not just for those countries neighboring war zones. The Syria crisis is so vast. We simply need more countries to share the load by taking a greater share of refugees from what has become the biggest displacement crisis of a generation.”

“Our conference on Wednesday aims to rally an increase over the next 3 years In the number of places for Syrian refugees to travel to third countries through humanitarian admission and other pathways."

Richard Harrington, minister with responsibility for Syrian refugees, said:

"The United Kingdom has been at the forefront of the international response to the humanitarian crisis in Syria.

"We have pledged £2.3 billion in humanitarian aid to Syria and neighbouring countries, making us the second largest donor to the Syria crisis. And we are providing nearly £55 million in response to the Mediterranean migration crisis, which includes life-saving humanitarian assistance within Europe.

"In total, we have granted asylum or other forms of leave to over 5,500 Syrian nationals and dependents through normal asylum procedures since the crisis began in 2011. Additionally, more than 1,000 people have already been resettled as part of our commitment to take in 20,000 Syrian refugees under our Syrian Vulnerable Persons Scheme.”

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