Story highlights

  • Only 90 Syrian refugees accepted by Britain
  • International community failing in its duty
  • Amnesty says UK should resettle 14,655 Syrian refugees by 2016

Turkey, Lebanon, Jordan, Iraq, and Egypt are hosting 95 percent of the total refugee population fleeing war-torn Syria.

Al Jazeera spoke to Kate Allen, the UK Director of Amnesty International, on the role of wealthier nations - like Britain - and their obligation to assist 4 million Syrians with both aid and resettlement. 

Al Jazeera: Vast numbers of displaced, injured or killed in a conflict over a number of years can cause "donor fatigue". Is this the case with Syria? 

Kate Allen: I think that the public can feel helpless in the face of such an overwhelming humanitarian disaster but experience has shown, for example during the Kosovo crisis, that the public can identify with the plight of the refugees. Amnesty International is putting pressure on the UK government not only to provide aid to the neighbouring countries hosting 4 million Syrian refugees, but to work with partners and activists to resettle their share of refugees from the region.  

The UK should take 14,655 [Syrian refugees] by the end of 2016.

Kate Allen, UK director, Amnesty International

Al Jazeera: The UK is the second largest donor of funds to Syrians "on the ground" - isn't this enough?

Allen: How can we expect countries like Lebanon and Jordan to continue hosting so many refugees when we have only resettled 90 to date in the UK? The provision of aid is of course helpful but the UK should take its share of responsibility. One in three of the population in Lebanon is a Syrian refugee and this is just not sustainable. If Germany can provide 30,000 places for Syrian refugees then the UK should certainly take more.

Al Jazeera: What would Amnesty see as a responsible number of Syrians for the government to settle in the UK and what assistance would they need once there?

Allen: Amnesty International is calling for 10 percent of the total refugee population in the main host countries to be resettled by the end of 2016 based on the number and needs identified by the UNHCR. This means the UK should take 14,655 by the end of 2016 based on a formula which takes into account wealth, population size and unemployment rate.

Around 380,000 refugees have been identified by UNHCR as vulnerable and in need of resettlement. They include torture survivors and orphaned children. So far, only 79,180 resettlement places have been offered globally by wealthier countries. 

Al Jazeera: What are the greatest issues facing Syrian refugees at this time and how can British politicians make a difference?

Allen: It's freezing in the refugee camps and there are enormous needs for the refugee population. British politicians can make a difference by pressurising the government to take its share of refugees. It cannot solve the problem - but it can alleviate the situation.

Al Jazeera: What is your message to David Cameron, in this election year, on his role as not just a domestic, but also an international political figure?

Allen: David Cameron shouldn't be frightened of taking a larger number of Syrian refugees for resettlement to ensure the UK is playing its part.

Source: Al Jazeera