States involved in Syrian war offer least help to victims: Oxfam

A civil defence member at a site hit by what activists said were three consecutive air strikes carried out by the Russian air force in Syria, on Jan 12, 2016.
A civil defence member at a site hit by what activists said were three consecutive air strikes carried out by the Russian air force in Syria, on Jan 12, 2016. PHOTO: REUTERS

BEIRUT (REUTERS) - A report by international charity Oxfam on Monday (Feb 1) showed some of the countries most deeply involved in Syria's civil war, including Russia, Saudi Arabia and France, are among the least generous in helping its victims.

Oxfam released the report ahead of a donor conference in London on Thursday (Feb 4), along with an appeal for increased aid and resettlement abroad for 10 per cent of the refugees registered in Syria's neighbours by the end of the year.

Most rich countries were contributing less than their "fair share" of financial aid, the amount a country should contribute relative to the size of its economy. Countries gave 56.5 per cent of the US$8.9 billion (S$12.7 billion) requested by aid appeals for 2015, it said.

Russia gave 1 per cent of its fair share and Saudi Arabia 28 per cent. Neither have pledged to take in Syrian refugees. At the same time, Riyadh gives military aid to insurgents fighting against the Syrian government, and Moscow supports Damascus with air strikes against rebel groups.

Among western countries, France, which joined the United States-led air campaign against the Islamic State in Syria in September last year, gave 45 per cent of its "fair share", Oxfam said. Paris took in about 5,000 Syrian refugees last year.

"As a bare minimum the international community needs to fund the aid appeals (for refugees)," Oxfam's Daniel Gorevan said via telephone. The conflict has created more than four million refugees and displaced another nearly seven million inside Syria.

The United States donated 76 per cent of its fair share, but was the biggest single donor. Several European countries gave well over their fair share, such as Denmark (318 per cent), Norway (385 per cent) and Britain (237 per cent). Kuwait donated 554 per cent. But the vast majority of countries fell far short in terms of refugee admissions and resettlement pledges, also based on economy size, Oxfam said.

On refugee resettlement, the US has pledged to take seven per cent of its fair share with at least 10,000 refugees, and Britain 23 per cent with 20,000 by May 2020. Canada, Norway and Germany have pledged to take well over 100 per cent of their fair share of refugees. Germany registered over 158,000 Syrian asylum seekers last year, and many more refugees from the civil war are believed to be in the country.

Russia has not pledged to take any refugees and Gulf countries were not included in the resettlement figures because they have not signed the UN Refugee Convention. They have not officially taken in any Syrians as refugees.

Mr Gorevan said there had been a "significant drop off in Gulf funding" for Syria aid and the overall lack of funds was exacerbating the crisis.

"The impact of the aid cuts has been quite devastating, with food rations cut, and less access to services like health and education. A smaller number of refugees are receiving less assistance," he said.

The crisis is straining neighbouring countries, which host the vast majority of Syrian refugees and have contributed disproportionately highly as a result.