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The number of refugees arriving in Europe needs to be put in perspective, Oxfam said today, calling on wealthy states to help refugees and poor communities in countries neighboring Syria as they increasingly feel the strain.
The Europe Union’s population is at least 100 times that of Lebanon, for example, with its economy 400 times. Still, the tiny country hosts well over three times the number of refugees who have arrived in Europe this year.
‘Europe is facing a crisis of political will, not a refugee one – it clearly has the resources and capacity to host those arriving on its shores. The millions of people who have fled violence in Syria are the ones living an unprecedented crisis, struggling every day to find safety, food and shelter,’ said Andy Baker, who heads Oxfam’s response to the Syria crisis.
Half of the 400,000 people who took the often perilous journey to Europe by sea in 2015 are Syrians(1). The vast majority of the 4 million refugees live in informal camps or rent substandard shelters in countries bordering Syria, such as Jordan and Lebanon, where infrastructure and services have been stretched to the absolute limit.
‘The public support for refugees Europe has witnessed has undoubtedly been a turning point. It has finally pushed political leaders to take much needed action with regards to resettling refugees. This is welcome, a lifeline for thousands. But to really bring relief we need more safe and legal routes to third countries, a radically scaled up aid response, and concerted effort to stop the terrible violence in Syria that is causing this sprawling human catastrophe,’ added Baker.
Fran Beytrison, Oxfam’s Lebanon country manager, said: ‘In the face of aid cuts, an increasingly uncertain future in Lebanon, and little hope of the conflict in Syria ending, more and more Syrian refugees we work with tell us how they are considering risking their lives on dangerous routes, travelling on flimsy boats across the sea in the hope of a better future. They are running out of options and forced to make this desperate decision, as a last resort.'
Syrian refugees who have depleted their resources increasingly rely on humanitarian aid. But currently, more than 60 percent of the funds needed to provide support to displaced Syrians are unavailable, meaning humanitarian agencies are drastically cutting back on the amount of aid they can provide.
‘In a country as small as Lebanon, this is a crisis for both refugees, who are barely holding on by a thread, and vulnerable Lebanese alike. It’s time for concerted action to avert an even bigger crisis,’ said Beytrison.
Notes to editors
- According to the World Bank, the EU’s GDP for 2014 was more than 18 trillion USD, for a population of 500 million. Lebanon’s GDP for the same year was at about 45 billion USD for a population of 4 million.
- Oxfam has been working in Jordan, Lebanon and Syria since 2013, helping Syrians with water, sanitation and hygiene programmes, as well as distributing food and cash vouchers, and winter items.
- Last year Oxfam called on rich countries to offer resettlement or other forms of admission to 5 per cent of the refugee population in neighbouring countries by the end of 2015, around 200,000 people, as part of a multiyear commitment. Only 27,000 have actually been resettled, according to UNHCR.