Rich countries have resettled just 1.39% of Syrian refugees, need to step up efforts

Published: 28th March 2016

Rich countries have resettled only 1.39 percent of the nearly five million Syrian refugees, a fraction of the 10 percent of people who need to be urgently offered a safe haven. As wealthy states meet in Geneva on 30 March to discuss the Syria refugee crisis, Oxfam urges them to redouble their efforts and offer their ‘fair share’ of support to hundreds of thousands of refugees.

Oxfam’s new analysis released today shows that only three countries – Canada, Germany, Norway – have made resettlement pledges exceeding their ‘fair share’, which is calculated according to the size of their economy, and five others – Australia, Finland, Iceland, Sweden, New Zealand – have pledged more than half of it.

The other 20 countries included in the analysis need to offer safe and legal routes to more Syrians fleeing the conflict, and increase their share of resettlement to fairer levels. For example, France has only pledged to take four percent of its fair share, the Netherlands and the United States seven percent each, Denmark 15 percent and the United Kingdom 22 percent.

Winnie Byanyima, Executive Director of Oxfam International, said: "Six years into this terrible crisis, more than 4.8 million Syrian people are now refugees in Turkey, Lebanon, Jordan and elsewhere in the region. The most vulnerable of them – women, children, the elderly – can’t go back, but don’t have the resources or support to live properly where they are.  They need help moving forward to a better future."

While peace talks and a partial ceasefire have given Syrians a glimmer of hope, it will take years before they can go back home and rebuild their lives. Rich countries have reacted to this crisis by providing aid funds, and offering resettlement to refugees, but have failed to match the levels needed. Moreover, some attempts to use resettlement as a bargaining chip in political deals, like the recent EU-Turkey deal, are deeply troubling and pose political, ethical and probably legal questions. Resettlement should be about providing a home to vulnerable refugees, not a method for managing migration or justifying harsh asylum policies.

Oxfam calls for the resettlement or other forms of humanitarian admission in rich countries of 10 percent of all registered refugees by the end of 2016, the equivalent of around 480,000 people. Collectively, rich nations have so far offered places to 129,966 people, only 27 percent of the minimum they should. And of those, only 67,000 have actually made it to their final destination.

"We need to show Syrian people that ‘solidarity’ is an action, not a sound-bite. Countries with a strong economy, good services and developed infrastructure can immediately resettle 500,000 refugees between them – if they choose to. This is less than Washington DC’s population. Some countries have reached their fair share, and more. Others need to follow," said Byanyima.

In Lebanon, one in five inhabitants is a Syrian refugee. In Jordan, they constitute 10 percent of the population, and the fourth largest ‘city’ is a refugee camp.

"These countries have fragile economies and weak infrastructure. They can no longer shoulder this responsibility virtually alone. The Geneva meeting should result in urgent solutions, offering people safe and legal routes to a welcome in third countries," said Byanyima.

Notes to editors

- The fair share analysis is available here:

- 67,108 Syrian refugees have been resettled since 2013 according to information drawn from publicly available sources including the UNHCR and checked with government sources where possible

- Previous fair shares are available here for 2014 and here for 2015.

Resettlement is an option whereby a third county (i.e. not the one the refugee has fled from, or the country of first asylum or habitual residence) offers refugee status in its territory to an individual. For example, this could mean a refugee from Syria living in Jordan being offered status, and related reception and integration support, in the United States of America.

Humanitarian admission programs are similar, but normally involve expedited processing, and may provide either permanent or temporary stay depending on the legislation or policy of the state offering this option.

Other forms of admission could include allowing Syrian refugees legal access to third countries by relaxing requirements for entry visas to work and study, not necessarily based upon their vulnerabilities.

Asylum: Civilians facing persecution or other risks resulting from armed conflict or massive violations of human rights have a right to flee to safety across international borders and request asylum in another country. States have specific obligations towards asylum seekers under international law, particularly the obligation not to forcibly return them to harm.

Relocation refers to the transfer of asylum-seekers from one European Union (EU) Member State to another. It is an intra-EU process, in which Member States agree to process some of the caseload of States who are receiving a large number of asylum-seekers on their territory.

Contact information

Joelle Bassoul in Beirut: / +961-71525218

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