Canada generous, but most wealthy nations fall short in supporting Syrians affected by conflict

While some world powers have led by example when it comes to assisting Syrians, who are still being killed, displaced, and impoverished by the hundreds of thousands, most still fall far short  according to Oxfam’s new fair share analysis, published today.

February 1, 2016

Rich countries meeting in London this week must commit to real changes that will improve the lives of millions of Syrians, said Oxfam today. Aid funding and resettlement places offered so far were often so low as to be little more than token gestures. Syrians in need are waiting for actions not just kind words and promises.

While some world powers have led by example when it comes to assisting Syrians, who are still being killed, displaced, and impoverished by the hundreds of thousands, most still fall far short  according to Oxfam’s new fair share analysis, published today. Just over half the money to fund the appeals designed to help people in Syria and surrounding countries was given in 2015.

The analysis calculates how much aid and resettlement places are given by countries according to the size of their economy. Canada, Germany, the Netherlands, Sweden and the UK continue to give generously while major donors Qatar, Saudi Arabia, and the US have contributed a smaller percentage of their fair share. Australia, France and Russia have increased their direct involvement in the conflict but fail to fund the appeals as much as they should. Russia provided just 1% of its fair share to the appeals linked to the crisis in 2015.

Julie Delahanty, Oxfam Canada’s Executive Director, said:  "The Government of Canada has been a generous donor, and by extending its $100M emergency relief fund to the end of February has demonstrated a continued commitment to supporting the humanitarian response in Syria and the region. But the needs are dire, and much more is needed as the conflict approaches its fifth year.

"Receiving less aid, and unable to sustain themselves without the right to work or valid residency permits, many refugees are being forced into debt to pay rent and buy food. They have no choice but to reduce the numbers of daily meals for themselves and their families, and remove their children from school to send them to work. Women and girls are at increased risk of violence, including sexual violence and rape, and forced and early marriage.

"We urge Canadians to extend their generosity to the millions struggling to survive inside Syria and neighboring countries, so that agencies like Oxfam can provide essential services, especially as displaced families battle the harsh winter months."

Oxfam’s calculations of commitments rich countries need to make on aid and resettlement are the bare minimum, and they are repeatedly falling far short. In comparison Syria’s small neighbours Lebanon and Jordan, which host nearly 2 million refugees, have spent the equivalent of 6,892% and 5,628% of their fair share in aid respectively.

"The London conference has to be a turning point for rich nations,” Delahanty said, as countries prepare to meet on February 4 in the British capital to pledge support for Syria and its neighbours.  

In addition to sustained aid for Syrians, Oxfam calls for the resettlement or other forms of humanitarian admission in rich countries of 10% of refugees registered in Syria’s neighbours by the end of 2016, the equivalent of around 460,000 people1. These are Syrians who are at risk, vulnerable women and children, and people with disabilities and war wounds. Collectively, rich nations have so far offered places to 128,612 Syrians, only 28% of the minimum they should.

Canada’s pledge to resettle more than 36,000 refugees by the end of 2016 represents 238% of its fair share of Syrian resettlement. Germany and Norway have also consistently shown generosity in resettling refugees.     


Notes to editors  

  • NEW: Read: Social Society statement to Syria Donor Conference participants and the wider international community ahead of the London Conference.
  • The full fair share analysis for funding and resettlement pledges received to date is available here. Previous fair shares are available here for 2015. A full explanation of how Oxfam calculates its fair share analysis is available online.
  • Examples from Lebanon and Jordan depicting the impact of insufficient aid on refugees are available here.
  • Since the first international Syria conference in 2013, Oxfam’s calculation of rich countries fair share of aid has shown that only a handful of names always come on top, such as:     
    • Germany: 156% in 2013, 111% in 2014, and 152% in 2015    
    • The Netherlands: 133% in 2013, 114% in 2014, and 246% in 2015    
    • Norway: 332% in 2013,  254% in 2014, 385% in 2015 
  • Other countries have consistently not contributed nearly as much as they should:
    • Russia: 3% in 2013, 7% in 2014, and 1% in 2015.
    • France: 69% in 2013, 57% in 2014, and 45% in 2015.
    • Japan: 37% in 2013, 29% in 2014, and 24% in 2015
    • A third group has actually decreased funding significantly:
    • Saudi Arabia: 282% in 2013, 108% in 2014, and 28% in 2015.
    • Qatar: 309% in 2013, 358% in 2014, and 18% in 2015.
    • Australia: 98% in 2013, 28% in 2014, and 37% in 2015
  • Resettlement is an option whereby a third county (i.e. not the one the refugee has fled from, or the country of first asylum or habitual residence) offers refugee status in its territory to an individual. For example, this could mean a refugee from Syria living in Jordan being offered status, and related reception and integration support, in the United States of America.
  • Humanitarian admission programmes are similar, but normally involve expedited processing, and may provide either permanent or temporary stay depending on the legislation or policy of the state offering this option.
  • Other forms of admission could include allowing Syrian refugees legal access to third countries by relaxing requirements for entry visas to work and study, not necessarily based upon their vulnerabilities.
  • Asylum: Civilians facing persecution or other risks resulting from armed conflict or massive violations of human rights have a right to flee to safety across international borders and request asylum in another country. States have specific obligations towards asylum seekers under international law, particularly the obligation not to forcibly return them to harm.
  • Relocation refers to the transfer of asylum-seekers from one European Union (EU) Member State to another. It is an intra-EU process, in which Member States agree to process some of the caseload of States who are receiving a large number of asylum-seekers on their territory.  

For interviews with Oxfam staff in London, Beirut or Amman (in English, Arabic, and French) please contact:
Joelle Bassoul at +961-71525218
Attila Kulcsar at +44-7887788870

For interview in Canada, contact:
Melanie Gallant at 613-858-2658

1This is roughly equivalent to the number of refugees which UNHCR has identified as particularly vulnerable and in need of resettlement.