A coalition of 36 international organisations is calling on rich countries to resettle tens of thousands of Syrian refugees inside their borders. The call comes before a United Nations conference aimed at getting countries to pledge to take more refugees begins in Geneva on Tuesday.
More than 3.2 million refugees have fled Syria in the past three years, but the United Nations refugee agency (UNHCR) expects that number to grow to more than 3.6 million by the end of 2015.
Around 95% of the current refugees are now living in just five neighbouring countries: Turkey, Lebanon, Jordan, Iraq and Egypt.
According to Amnesty International, only 1.7% of the total number of refugees have been offered sanctuary by the rest of the international community.
In Europe, Germany and Sweden have received almost 100,000 asylum applications from Syrian refugees. The UK, France, Italy, Spain and Poland have pledged to admit just 2,000 refugees between them.
Britain declined to join the UN’s resettlement programme, instead setting up its own Vulnerable Persons Relocation Scheme for Syrian refugees. According to Amnesty, only 90 Syrians have been resettled in the UK.
Meanwhile the Gulf states have not offered to take a single Syrian refugee. Amnesty International Sherif Elsayed-Ali, head of refugee and migrant rights, has said that the “complete absence” of resettlement pledges from the Gulf is “particularly shameful” , stating that religious and linguistic ties should place Gulf states at the forefront of those offering shelter.
Syria’s neighbouring countries are increasingly struggling to cope with the influx of refugees and most have placed restrictions at their borders to stem the flow of desperate Syrians seeking shelter within their borders.
To ease the pressure placed on the neighbouring countries, the coalition of organisations has said that by the end of 2015, other countries should admit at least 5% of the 3.6 million refugees.
“The shortfall in the number of resettlement places for refugees offered by the international community is truly shocking,” said Elsayed. He added: “Those with the economic means to do so must play a greater role.”
The UN high commission for refugees set a goal of 30,000 Syrian refugees to be accepted by the international community in 2014, which has been exceeded. However it is now calling on states to provide resettlement or other forms of admission for an additional 100,000 by the end of 2016.
Among the organisations making the demand are Oxfam, Amnesty International, ActionAid, Save the Children and Islamic Relief.