Amnesty slams apathy towards Syrian refugees

Rights group criticises wealthy countries, particularly Gulf states, over their "pitiful" efforts to take in refugees.

    Amnesty slams apathy towards Syrian refugees
    In addition to the refugees who fled Syria, the UN says more than seven million Syrians are internally displaced [EPA]

    An international human rights group has criticised wealthy nations for taking in a "pitiful" amount of Syrian refugees and consequently placing an enormous burden on the country's ill-equipped neighbours.

    In a statement on Friday ahead of a December 9 donors' conference in Geneva, UK-based Amnesty International slammed the "shocking" failure of rich nations to host more refugees, now totalling millions of people.

    "Around 3.8 million refugees from Syria are being hosted in five main countries within the region: Turkey, Lebanon, Jordan, Iraq and Egypt," said Amnesty.

    "Only 1.7 percent of this number have been offered sanctuary by the rest of the world."

    Highlighting what it called "the pitiful numbers of resettlement places offered by the international community," Amnesty noted that the Gulf Arab states, Russia and China had not offered a single resettlement place.

    Excluding Germany, the European Union as a whole has pledged to take in only 0.17 percent of the refugees now housed in the main host countries around Syria.

    "The shortfall... is truly shocking," said Sherif Elsayed-Ali, Amnesty's head of refugee and migrants' rights.

    Gulf states' lack of help slammed

    "The complete absence of resettlement pledges from the Gulf is particularly shameful," he added. "Linguistic and religious ties should place the Gulf [Arab] states at the forefront of those offering safe shelter."

    Elsayed-Ali told Al Jazeera that over the almost four-year long conflict, Gulf states have not accomodated a single Syrian refugee, adding that the monetary assistance some of them provided could not remotely fix the crisis.

    "Money will not solve it. There are people who survived torture and rape, unaccompanied children, and elderly people who need a place to provide them with healthcare, education and decent housing," he added.

    Amnesty said it was calling for the resettlement of five percent of Syria's refugees by the end of 2015, and another five percent the following year.

    That would accommodate all of the approximately 380,000 refugees identified for resettlement by the UN because of particular vulnerabilities, including lone children and torture survivors.

    "Countries cannot ease their consciences with cash pay-outs then simply wash their hands of the matter," Elsayed-Ali said.

    "Those with the economic means to do so must play a greater role." Syria's conflict began in March 2011 with anti-government demonstrations, but has spiralled into a devastating civil war that has displaced around half the country's population.

    In addition to those who fled the country to become refugees, the United Nations says more than seven million Syrians are internally displaced.

    The refugees face poverty, illness and growing tensions with host communities in their already-impoverished temporary homes.

    SOURCE: Al Jazeera and agencies


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