Close-Fisted Wealthy Nations Are 'Failing the People of Syria': Oxfam

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Close-Fisted Wealthy Nations Are 'Failing the People of Syria': Oxfam

While some small European countries are donating more than their fair share to aid Syrians, the U.S., Saudi Arabia, and Russia are still far behind

Syrian children in a United Nations refugee camp. (Photo: Mustafa Khayat/flickr/cc)

Wealthy countries are still falling short of their obligations to help Syrians, five years into the crisis, according to a new analysis by the international aid group Oxfam, released Monday.

World leaders, who are gathering in London this week for a conference on supporting Syria and the region, must commit to pledges that will actively improve the lives of Syrian civilians and are proportional to wealthy nations' economies, the "fair share" analysis (pdf) states. As of now, donations to aid groups and efforts to resettle refugees have amounted to "little more than token gestures."

"The world is failing the people of Syria," said Oxfam Great Britain chief executive Mark Goldring. "Five years on since the start of the crisis the violence and suffering continues to escalate but the level of funding and support fails to match. Countries must do more to help in Syria, in the region and in resettling the most vulnerable."

In total, wealthy countries gave just 56.5 percent of the $8.9 billion needed by humanitarian organizations like the United Nations, the Red Cross, and other groups to provide aid within Syria or help resettle refugees fleeing violence, war, and poverty.

But certain individual countries did far less than they could. Russia, for example, gave just one percent of its fair share in 2015, donating $6.9 million to the aid groups, despite having the funds to donate $683 million. As the Middle East Eye pointed out in its reporting on the analysis, "Moscow is a key ally of Syrian President Bashar al-Assad and has supported the embattled government with air strikes against various rebel groups."

The U.S., which is both the largest donor to Syrian aid appeals and is also leading the military coalition currently conducting air strikes throughout the country, contributed 76 percent of its capacity at a little over $1.5 billion, while it could have given $2.6 billion.

Due to military sieges and bureaucratic blockades carried out by all sides of the conflict, millions in Syria are not receiving the humanitarian aid that's already been paid for, the analysis continues.

And European countries—even those that have contributed 100 percent or more of their fair share—are falling short in other ways, such as failing to ensure that refugees receive safe and legal passage across borders or have access to stable employment and housing.

"With no prospect of returning home soon, refugees are stuck between a rock and a hard place: receiving less aid, and unable to sustain themselves without the right to work or valid residency permits," said Andy Baker, head of Oxfam's Syria crisis response. "Refugees are becoming increasingly vulnerable. Participants in the conference can't sit by and watch this happen."

New Zealand, Qatar, and the Republic of Korea were also among the lowest contributors, respectively donating 15 percent, 17 percent, and 5 percent of their fair shares. Saudi Arabia gave 28 percent.

Meanwhile, smaller countries like Denmark, Kuwait, and Norway, all gave more than 300 percent of what Oxfam deems equitable—and in Kuwait's case, more than 500 percent.

In addition to sustained financial aid, Oxfam said nations must give some form of humanitarian admission to 10 percent of refugees currently registered in Syria's neighbors, a total of about 460,000 people. "Collectively, rich nations have so far offered places to 128,612 Syrians - only 28% of the minimum they should," the group said.

"Our calculations of commitments that rich countries need to make on aid and resettlement are the bare minimum, and they are repeatedly falling far short," Baker said. "The London conference has to be a turning point."

Delegates are meeting this week in Geneva for peace talks as the crisis in Syria escalates. And the European Union police agency Europol announced Monday that more than 10,000 refugee and migrant children have disappeared in the past 18 to 24 months.

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