Leading aid and refugee agencies are launching a new call for the UK to offer up to 10,000 resettlement places to refugees from Syria.
The call comes at the latest immigration statistics reveal that only 90 refugees have been resettled in the UK since the Government set up its special resettlement scheme for Syrians in January.
Oxfam, Save the Children, Amnesty International, the Refugee Council and over 25 other organisations have today signed a letter to the Prime Minister urging him to offer safe haven to more refugees from Syria.
Pressure is building on the Government ahead of a global resettlement pledging conference being hosted by the UN’s Refugee Agency UNHCR on 9 December. Governments from around the world will be asked to pledge 100,000 resettlement places for Syria’s refugees in 2015/2016.
So far, the British Government has said it anticipates resettling just ‘several hundred people’ over a three year period and has resisted calls to resettle more people. Other countries, including Germany and the USA, have promised to resettle thousands.
The charities have joined forces to stress that given the unprecedented scale of the humanitarian crisis gripping Syria and the surrounding region, the UK’s generous effort to the relief effort must be complemented with a more substantial resettlement scheme.
The letter says:
Figures released today will show that Britain has only so far resettled around 100 Syrian refugees, a woefully inadequate number compared to the scale of the crisis.
While we applaud Britain’s generous aid contribution to the crisis, it is clear that aid alone is not enough. Syria’s neighbours are struggling under the weight of this unprecedented crisis and it is time we stopped asking of them what we are not doing ourselves.
We are therefore calling on rich and developed countries to agree collectively to resettle at least 5% of the total Syrian refugee population by the end of 2015. This is a modest but proportionate contribution and Britain’s fair share of that would involve offering hope for up to 10,000 Syrians in that time. That’s less than 0.3% of all the refugees, but would transform, even save, lives.
Britain should use this opportunity to take the lead alongside other European countries who have pledged to resettle thousands of refugees from Syria. In this case, numbers speak louder than words. To do anything other than increase our pledge to thousands, not hundreds, would be to send the wrong message to Syria’s most vulnerable people, and the countries currently hosting them, all desperately asking for our help.
Oxfam GB Chief Executive Mark Goldring said: “It’s unlike this country not to offer people a safe haven. Our government has a responsibility to rise above domestic politics and see this for what it is: Britain giving safe, often temporary, homes to people in the direst of need. Syria’s neighbouring countries are at breaking point. We need to show them we’re standing with them and are willing to share a tiny portion of the burden of this terrible war.”
Chief Executive of Save the Children Justin Forsyth said: “Syria’s neighbouring countries are struggling under the burden of 3.2 million refugees, yet Britain is offering sanctuary to so few. These are people trying to escape the worst conceivable atrocities; sick, injured and traumatised children unable to get the help they need. Britain has led the way in giving aid and now we have an opportunity to offer a transformed future to the conflict’s most vulnerable victims.”
Refugee Council Chief Executive Maurice Wren added: “Syria’s story is one of death, destruction and displacement. While the prospects for peace appear more remote than ever, the future for Syria’ refugees is bleak. Unable to return home, these people’s lives depend on the compassion and generosity of countries like ours. We must not turn our backs on Syria’s refugees. We must open our hearts and open our borders to more refugees in need of resettlement.”
Britain must urgently pledge to resettle more refugees from Syria. Ask your MP to act now.
Photo courtesy of UNHCR