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Oxfam launches new refugee response program on European mainland
The international community is proving utterly inadequate in helping Syrians both inside and outside their country. Oxfam’s damning verdict is in a new report today Solidarity with Syrians that analyzes the “fair shares” of rich and powerful countries to provide money, resettlement places for refugees and leadership to end the bloodshed.
The report coincides with Oxfam’s decision to start a new humanitarian program in Serbia – aimed at around €1m – to help some of the thousands fleeing to safety, including many Syrians, who will soon face a Balkans winter with few resources to cope. Oxfam works in the top nine countries of origin for refugees around the world as well as countries like Lebanon and Jordan which border Syria.
Solidarity with Syrians
Oxfam says the international community’s efforts to stop the violence and solve the crisis look cursory and insincere, especially with the war now intensifying. In addition, aid flows are woefully inadequate for Syrians to live in dignity and safety, and many countries are simply paying lip-service to their commitments to give safe haven for those who have managed to flee. Only 17,000 Syrians have been so far resettled in a third country due to lack of political will to honor the pledges already made.
Some countries are performing better than others but it is hard to find champions beyond Syria’s near neighbors and the laudable exceptions of Germany and Norway. The report shows that while some donor countries might perform relatively well in some areas, many are failing badly across the board.
“Refugees from Syria and other countries have the right to be free from violence, to aid for basic needs and dignity, and to a welcome of safe haven,” said Oxfam Executive Director Winnie Byanyima. “They are being short-changed on all three fronts. There will be no end to the suffering of people from Syria until action is taken on these issues.”
- The international community is not preventing the escalating violence or doing enough to ensure civilians are protected in Syria. And only a handful of countries can say they are doing their fair share in providing aid and resettling refugees: Russia (aid 1%, resettlement none) and France (aid 22%, resettlement 5%) have registered poor results on both counts.
- The United Kingdom, the United States, and Kuwait, while giving considerable funds (the percentage of their fair share in aid is 229%, 72% and 538% respectively) have been less than generous in their offers to welcome the most vulnerable refugees (the percentage of their fair share is just 26%, and 8% while Kuwait has not resettled refugees. Germany and Norway lead the way, giving generously in terms of aid (percentage of their fair share is 75% and 186% respectively), and resettlement (percentage of their fair share is 112% and 293% respectively).
- By comparison, Jordan, a host country, is estimated to have spent $870m a year in relation to the Syria refugee crisis – which represent 5,622% of its fair share.
As the barrel bombs, massacres, air strikes and mortars continue inside Syria, aid is drying up and living conditions in neighboring countries are toughening. The Syrian displacement crisis is spreading and deepening. Oxfam says that unless addressed, these failures - along with a continuation of the bloodshed and fear - will intensify the Syrian refugee crisis and entrench it for a generation.
Andy Baker, who heads Oxfam’s Syria crisis response, said: “The aid response is faltering due to lack of funds – or more accurately, the lack of political will to loosen up funds. Rich countries have ignored repeated alarm bells. The most vulnerable refugees, who make up 10% of the registered Syrians, are in urgent and desperate need of resettlement places”
“The violence in Syria is intensifying, fuelled by a divided international community and the transfer of arms and ammunitions to warring parties. Faced with this grim situation, many Syrians are literally jumping in the water to seek a better future.”
Oxfam’s new Serbia program
Oxfam will be distributing materials to help those who have reached Serbia to cope with the coming winter. It will focus in Šid, near the border with Croatia, Dimitrovgrad near the border with Bulgaria and in Preševo/Miratovac, near the Macedonia border. Oxfam will provide toilets, showers and water points and is looking to raise €1m for this program.
Riccardo Sansone, Oxfam’s Humanitarian Coordinator in Serbia, said: “People are arriving here exhausted, hungry and thirsty and often in need of urgent medical attention. They are traumatized and have often been abused by the smugglers and human trafficking networks. Water and sanitation facilities are insufficient along the whole migration routes because Serbia was not expecting such numbers."
Sansone commended efforts made by the Serbian Government to prepare for refugees and said they should be strengthened and supported. Serbia has called for international assistance. Refugees already face the prospect of a bitterly cold winter. “Families with small children are sleeping in the open air in parks, bus and train stations and in the bush at crossing points. They are highly exposed to the risk of robbery, sexual violence and other abuses,” he said.
Notes to editors
- This press release is available in Arabic
- The full fair share analysis for funding and resettlement pledges received to date is available here. Download previous fair shares for 2014 and 2015.
- Oxfam’s report looks at two key indicators to help guide the level of commitment that each wealthy country should make in order to fairly alleviate the suffering of those affected by the Syria crisis:
- The level of funding each country makes available for the humanitarian response, relative to the size of their economy (based on gross national income);The number of Syrian refugees in neighbouring countries that each state has pledged to provide sanctuary through offers of resettlement or other forms of humanitarian protection, again based on the size of the pledging state’s economy. This does not include the numbers of people who have claimed and been granted asylum, as states have specific international legal obligations related to individuals who arrive on their territory seeking asylum.
- The number of Syrian refugees in neighbouring countries that each state has pledged to provide sanctuary through offers of resettlement or other forms of humanitarian protection, again based on the size of the pledging state’s economy. This does not include the numbers of people who have claimed and been granted asylum, as states have specific international legal obligations related to individuals who arrive on their territory seeking asylum.
- 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.
- 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.
Attila Kulcsar, Oxfam Rights in Crisis and Humanitarian Media Officer
Mobile: +447471 142974, email@example.com, @attilalondon
Joelle Bassoul, Oxfam Media Advisor, Syria Response
Mobile: +961-71525218, firstname.lastname@example.org, @jobassoul
For updates, please follow @Oxfam.