Oxfam calls on Western governments to offer haven as number of registered Syrian refugees reaches 3 million

Published: 29th August 2014

Western and other rich countries should step up their efforts to resettle Syrian refugees, Oxfam said today after the number registered with UNHCR reached three million.  

Urgent action is necessary in order to respond to a growing regional crisis caused by increasing displacement, insufficient aid and over-burdened infrastructure in neighboring countries, Oxfam added.

Approximately 5,000 refugees have been resettled in countries beyond Syria’s neighbors through the UN: that’s only 0.16% of the registered refugee population. Meanwhile the UN humanitarian appeal for the refugee response is still woefully underfunded, with less than half the money it needs. Though neighboring countries such as Jordan, Lebanon and Turkey have been very generous in helping refugees to date, their generosity is wearing thin as often poor host communities bear the brunt of Syria’s ongoing crisis.

The international community must play its part in offering refugees protection, and supporting neighboring countries to accept people fleeing the conflict in Syria.

Neighbor countries stretched

Andy Baker, head of Oxfam’s Syria crisis response, said: “As the number of refugees grows, aid is proving insufficient and neighboring countries are stretched to breaking point. It is shocking that over three years into a crisis which shows no sign of abating, under the UN refugee resettlement scheme rich countries have taken in a mere 5,000 of the 3 million registered refugees who are often struggling to survive from one day to the next.

“The international community should step up its support and work with the UN to quickly offer a life-line to some of the most vulnerable families by giving them a new home. The refugees we work with are desperate to return to rebuild their lives in Syria, but while a political solution to the crisis remains elusive, there is sadly no way that they can.”

Funding shortfalls

Facing significant funding shortfalls, humanitarian agencies have already had to cut programs and target their assistance, leaving refugees to go without. In Jordan, Oxfam has had to halt cash payments that were helping 6,500 refugees in host communities. In June 2014, the UN was forced to downscale the funding target aimed at refugees from US $4.2 to $3.74 billion due to a lack of available funds from donors.

“The fact that 3 million Syrians are now refugees is just part of the picture of human suffering. With 10.8 million more people needing help inside Syria and indiscriminate attacks on civilians claiming more lives each week, more and more families will be forced to seek sanctuary. Refugees are increasingly depleting their savings and assets: with opportunities to work in neighboring countries often limited or non-existent, people have few choices left open to them and many can’t see how they can provide for their families in the future.

"Without sustainable support for an improved humanitarian response and increased resettlement for the most vulnerable refugees, the road ahead looks incredibly bleak,” added Baker.

Humanitarian crisis

In Jordan, the settlement of thousands of Syrian refugees in a very water-scarce area is putting huge pressure on available water resources. Refugees who Oxfam is working with in Zaatari camp have to make do with just over 35 liters per person per day for essential drinking and cleaning – a dramatic drop from the 70-145 liters they were used to back home in Syria.

With soaring summer temperatures, the threat of health risks looms large as Oxfam and other humanitarian agencies battle to meet basic needs, while working to create a piped water network that will provide Zaatari camp residents with a more sustainable water source.

Updated 29 August 2014 (2:35 pm GMT)

As the number of refugees grows, aid is proving insufficient and neighboring countries are stretched to breaking point.
Andy Baker
Head of Oxfam’s Syria crisis response

Notes to editors

Oxfam is an international confederation of 17 organizations working together in more than 90 countries.

Contact information

For media: Oxfam has staff in Beirut/Amman/Oxford who can do interviews in English, Arabic, and French.

Contact Joelle Bassoul for enquiries: jbassoul@oxfam.org.uk +961-71525218, on Twitter @jobassoul.

For updates, follow @Oxfam.