World

Syria failed 'on every front' by international community

The international community has failed Syria in terms of aid, resettlement offers and the continuation of arms transfers, Oxfam says in a new report.

Canada among 'generous' Western donors of humanitarian assistance

The UN estimates that more than three million Syrians have been forced to flee to foreign countries to escape the ongoing three-year civil war. (Muhammed Hamed/Reuters)

The war in Syria has created millions of refugees and killed more than 191,000 people in the last three years, yet the international response is failing in terms of aid, resettlement offers and the continuation of arms transfers, Oxfam says in a report released Monday.

"This is the largest humanitarian crisis in the world, and the international community’s response is falling far short on every front," said Andy Baker, head of the aid agency's crisis response.

"In Syria, a steady flow of Kalashnikovs [rifles], bombs and missiles is fuelling terrible [human rights] violations, while aid only trickles through to those who so desperately need it," he said.

The report, A Fairer Deal for Syrians, says rich countries are offering a safe haven to a "paltry" number of refugees from Syria, while poorer, neighbouring countries are struggling to support more than three million people who have fled the conflict.

Late last month, the UN aid agency UNHCR announced the number of Syrian refugees who have left their homeland had reached three million. About 6.5 million have been internally displaced and are in need of aid. Most who have fled are being sheltered in neighbouring countries and only a small fraction have been resettled through the UN in countries beyond Syria's neighbours.

Syrian refugee children play in front of their family residences at Azraq refugee camp in Jordan in August. (Muhammad Hamed/Reuters)

The UN said the exodus that began in March 2011 shows no sign of abating.

Oxfam's report says countries such as Lebanon and Jordan are at the breaking point when it comes to supporting Syrian refugees.

The agency is calling for five per cent of the projected refugee population to be resettled or offered humanitarian admission to wealthy countries by the end of 2015. Each of those countries should take their fair share of the total based on the size of their economy, the agency says.

Germany, Australia and Austria are the only wealthy countries to have offered to relocate their fair share of refugees so far. Almost all the other rich countries are falling short, the report says.

“Canada has so far been generous in providing aid to people within Syria and those displaced to neighbouring countries,” said Robert Fox, executive director of Oxfam Canada.

The U.K. and Denmark were also recognized as being "generous donors." Canada has donated 90 per cent of its fair share, or $149.3 million US, the report says.

“However, as the number of refugees continues to grow and conflict spreads to other countries in region, [the Canadian] government must urgently step up diplomatic efforts to bring an end to this terrible humanitarian crisis," Fox said.

Russia, identified in the report as a "major arms exporter to Syria," has committed only one per cent of its fair share of aid.

France and the United States have provided just 33 per cent and 60 per cent of their fair share respectively and are continuing to supply arms, Oxfam says.

On another front, Oxfam says the international community has failed to unite in order to halt transfers of arms and ammunition to Syria.

While Persian Gulf countries are praised for "giving more than their fair share" toward humanitarian assistance, the report says they need to do more to stop arms flowing.

"A handful of governments in the region, as well as certain permanent members of the UN Security Council, are providing weapons to parties in Syria, and a number of other countries have ambiguous policies in this respect," the report says.

The U.S. government, for example, is identified as having a policy supporting the "transfer of arms and ammunition to vetted opposition groups."

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