UK & World News

  • 13 December 2013, 10:29

Syria Refugee Response By Europe 'Shameful'

Amnesty International is calling on Britain and the rest of Europe to do more to resettle refugees from Syria's civil war.

The campaign group says European leaders should "hang their heads with shame" over what it calls the pitifully low numbers of refugees being taken in.

It saysEU member states have pledged to resettle a very small proportion of Syria's refugees - just 12,000, or 0.5% of the 2.3 million who have fled the country.

The civil war between forces loyal to Syrian President Bashar al Assad and rebels seeking his overthrow has raged for 33 months and killed more than 125,000 people.

Only 10 EU member states have offered resettlement places to refugees.

Germany offered to take in 10,000 people - 80% of the total EU pledges - with other members offering to take 2,340 refugees.

Eighteen EU members - including the UK and Italy - offered no places at all.

The bulk of Syria's refugees - 97% - have fled to five neighbouring countries - Lebanon, Jordan, Turkey, Iraq and Egypt. The crisis has increased Lebanon's population by 20%.

Sherif Elsayed Ali, from Amnesty International, said: "There are people who because of their personal circumstances like their health or their age can't get adequate support in these countries.

"They have lost everything - their homes, their belongings, they have no savings they don't have any support networks and the only way to help them is to take them away and take them to a country that can cope."

Amnesty is calling on European member states to significantly increase the number of resettlement and humanitarian admission places for refugees from Syria and to strengthen the search and rescue capacity in the Mediterranean to help migrant boats in distress.

Fifty-five thousand Syrian refugees - 2.4% of the total number who have fled Syria - have managed to get through and claim asylum in the EU.

The British Government says it believes Syrian refugees are better off being closer to home and has offered humanitarian assistance in the camps which have sprung up over the country's borders.

But conditions remain grim, with most in tents or unheated buildings. Meanwhile, the UN is predicting one of the harshest winters in the region in a century.

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