5 December 2014

In a new report, Left out in the Cold: Syrian Refugees Abandoned by the International Community, Amnesty International admonishes the abysmal international response to the Syrian refugee crisis both in terms of offering resettlement to the refugees and funding the humanitarian effort in the region.

Amnesty International is calling for 380,000 refugees from Syria, i.e. 10% of the current refugee population, to be resettled globally by the end of 2016, with at least 5% resettled by the end of 2015. This call is based on UNHCR’s assessment that 378,684 refugees in the five main host countries, Lebanon, Jordan, Turkey, Iraq and Eqypt, are in need of resettlement. Amnesty puts forward that such a bold step would make a significant contribution to the well-being of the children, men, and women who will be able to resume their lives in dignity elsewhere.

The current effort to resettle refugees from Syria is shameful, according to Amnesty International. In total, 63,170 resettlement places have been offered globally, equal to a mere 1.7% of Syrian refugees in the neighbouring countries. Excluding Germany, who has made circa 30,000 places available, the remaining 27 EU Member States have pledged a total of 6,305 places, 0.17% of the number of refugees currently living in the main host countries.

Amnesty International notes that Lebanon, Jordan and to a lesser extent, Turkey have imposed severe restrictions on the entry of Syrians into their countries in response to the growing numbers of refugees arriving and the challenges of hosting such large numbers of refugees, with international funding to support them severely lacking. In Lebanon for example, according to UNHCR, the greatest needs as expressed by Syrian refugees include shelter, healthcare, education and self-reliance. With regard to education in particular, only 20% of Syrian refugee children are enrolled in schools and reported barriers include class size, the cost of transport, bullying and language issues. Moreover, some children are taken out of education to support their family with some reports of child labour and child marriage taking place in order for families to cope financially.

The United Nations World Food Programme (WFP) announced this week it has been forced to suspend a programme providing food vouchers to more than 1.7 million Syrian refugees in neighbouring countries, due to a funding crisis.

States are due to meet next week on 9 December, under the auspices of UNHCR, to make pledges to resettle or admit refugees fleeing Syria. So far, Norway, France, Belgium and the Netherlands have increased their commitments for 2015 by 500, 500, 150 and 250 places respectively.

“Next week’s pledging conference must be used to turn the tide around. It is time for world governments to take the courageous steps needed to share the responsibility for this crisis and help avert further suffering,” said Sherif ElsayedAli, Amnesty International’s Head of Refugee and Migrants’ Rights.


This article originally appeared in the ECRE Weekly Bulletin of 5 December 2014. You can subscribe to the Weekly Bulletin here.