Utterly inadequate international response for Syrians both in and outside borders, says new Oxfam report

The international community is proving utterly inadequate in helping Syrians both inside and outside their country. Oxfam’s damning verdict is in a new report today Solidarity with Syrians that analyses the “fair shares” of rich and powerful countries to provide money, resettlement places for refugees and leadership to end the bloodshed.    

The report coincides with Oxfam’s decision to start a new humanitarian program in Serbia – aimed at around $1.5 million – to help some of the thousands fleeing to safety, including many Syrians, who will soon face a Balkans winter with few resources to cope. Oxfam works in the top nine countries of origin for refugees around the world as well as countries like Lebanon and Jordan which border Syria.  

Solidarity with Syrians

Oxfam says the international community’s efforts to stop the violence and solve the crisis look cursory and insincere, especially with the war now intensifying. In addition, aid flows are woefully inadequate for Syrians to live in dignity and safety, and many countries are simply paying lip-service to their commitments to give safe haven for those who have managed to flee. Only 17,000 Syrians have been so far resettled in a third country due to lack of political will to honor the pledges already made.  

Ann Witteveen, Oxfam Canada’s Humanitarian Manager said:  “The Government of Canada has been  a very generous donor over the past years, and the recent creation of the $100M Syria emergency relief fund shows a continued commitment to supporting the humanitarian response in Syria and the region. We hope the government will move quickly to allocate these funds so that agencies like Oxfam can provide essential services, especially with winter just around the corner.."    

“Globally the Syria crisis is only half funded, and countless people trapped inside Syria or living as refugees in neighboring countries are suffering because of food shortages and the escalating price of food, overcrowding, inadequate shelter and insecurity. Women and girls are especially at risk of violence, including sexual violence and early and forced marriage.”  

As the barrel bombs, massacres, air strikes and mortars continue inside Syria, aid is drying up and living conditions in neighboring countries are toughening. Refugees now account for 25% of Lebanon’s population and 10% of Jordan’s population.   Melanie Gallant, Oxfam Canada’s media relations officer on the ground in Lebanon, said: “It is clear from visiting Syrian refugee camps in Northern Lebanon that families are unable to make ends meet. People are living in poverty and they are extremely worried about surviving the impending winter. They have lost family members, their homes and livelihoods – and seeing no end the conflict – they are beginning to lose hope."    

The violence in Syria is actually intensifying, fuelled by a divided international community and the transfer of arms and ammunitions to warring parties. Faced with this grim situation, many Syrians are literally jumping in the water to seek a better future.  

Gallant added: “Canada’s announcement that it will ease the resettlement process is welcome , and it must deliver on that promise as soon as possible. But being such a rich and prosperous country it could  also do much more. The Syria crisis is a watershed moment for Canada to save lives and show leadership on a crucial global humanitarian crisis.”    

Oxfam’s new Serbia program  

Oxfam will be distributing materials to help those who have reached Serbia to cope with the coming winter. It will focus in Šid, near the border with Croatia, Dimitrovgrad near the border with Bulgaria and in Preševo/Miratovac, near the Macedonia border. Oxfam will provide toilets, showers and water points and is looking to raise €1m for this program.  

Riccardo Sansone, Oxfam’s Humanitarian Coordinator in Serbia, said: “People are arriving here exhausted, hungry and thirsty and often in need of urgent medical attention. They are traumatized and have often been abused by the smugglers and human trafficking networks. Water and sanitation facilities are insufficient along the whole migration routes because Serbia was not expecting such numbers."  

Serbia has called for international assistance as refugees already face the prospect of a bitterly cold winter.  “Families with small children are sleeping in the open air in parks, bus and train stations and in the bush at crossing points. They are highly exposed to the risk of robbery, sexual violence and other abuses,” Sansone said.    


Melanie Gallant
Oxfam Canada
Media Relations Officer, Currently in Beirut

Ann Witteveen
Oxfam Canada
Humanitarian Manager, Ottawa

Notes to editors

  • Read full report here: Solidarity with Syrians
  • Oxfam’s report looks at two key indicators to help guide the level of commitment that each wealthy country should make in order to fairly alleviate the suffering of those affected by the Syria crisis:
    1. The level of funding each country makes available for the humanitarian response, relative to the size of their economy (based on gross national income);
    2. The number of Syrian refugees in neighbouring countries that each state has pledged to provide sanctuary through offers of resettlement or other forms of humanitarian protection, again based on the size of the pledging state’s economy. This does not include the numbers of people who have claimed and been granted asylum, as states have specific international legal obligations related to individuals who arrive on their territory seeking asylum.
  • 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.
  • 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

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