In the same week as the number of refugees from Syria reached a devastating record of 2 million people, Sweden announced it will grant a permanent residence permit to Syrians seeking asylum in Sweden. 12,000 refugees who are currently in Sweden can benefit from this measure. Despite this decision, reaching Europe remains difficult. “It is as if Sweden is hosting a grand banquet, yet the doors are closed” said George Joseph, ECRE member Caritas Sweden.

Regarding solutions for refugees caught in the region, only a handful of European countries, including Germany, Switzerland and Austria, have offered protection in their countries. Both Switzerland and Austria have agreed to resettle 500 Syrian refugees each, whilst Germany provides humanitarian admission to 5,000 vulnerable Syrian refugees.

Decisions cannot be made unilaterally. To assist in the protection of the thousands of Syrians, decisions need to be made at an EU-Level” said Joseph.

While more than 97 per cent of the 2 million refugees from Syria are hosted by countries in the immediate surrounding region, Jordan, Iraq, Lebanon and Turkey, 40,000 Syrians have been granted protection in Europe. UN High Commissioner for Refugees António Guterres stressed the need for those neighbouring countries to have “support from the international community” as “that support is not yet there”.

UNHCR and its partners have appealed for €3.4 billion for relief operations this year, however only 40 per cent of this funding has been secured. The European Union is the world’s biggest donor with €1.3 billion overall since 2011 to support the situation in Syria including refugees in the region, but also all other major humanitarian operations.


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This article originally appeared in the ECRE Weekly Bulletin of 6 September 2013.

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