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UK hosts less than a third of its fair share of Syrian refugees

25th Apr 2018


The UK has welcomed only a third (32 percent) of its fair share of Syrian refugees when compared with the size of its economy, according to analysis by Oxfam. The finding comes as British ministers join counterparts in Brussels for the 'Supporting the Future of Syria and the Region' conference today.

Although the 10,538 Syrian refugees that the UK had resettled by December 2017 falls far short of its responsibility as one of the world's largest economies, it marks a significant improvement on 2016 when it had managed just 18 percent of its fair share. 

Out of the 28 countries considered in the analysis, only Germany, Canada and Norway exceeded their fair share. Meanwhile, 20 out of 28 rich countries failed to help even half of their fair share of refugees. 

Fionna Smyth, Oxfam's Head of Humanitarian Policy, Advocacy, Campaigns, said: "We welcome International Development Secretary Penny Mordaunt's pledge of UK aid in Brussels today, and these figures show the UK has raised its game on the number of Syrian refugees resettled here. However, the UK is still a long way behind the best performers.  These are not just numbers but millions of ordinary people forced from their homes by the horrors of war and now being denied the chance to rebuild their lives. 

"All wealthy nations should support countries in the region that are hosting the majority of refugees, as well as doing far more to welcome the most vulnerable among them."

While Oxfam welcomed the increased number of Syrian refugees given sanctuary in the UK, it condemned the poor performance of the vast majority of wealthy countries. Without a radical improvement, it is unlikely that the target set by the UN Refugee Agency (UNHCR) to resettle 10 percent of the most vulnerable Syrian refugees by the end of this year will be met. 

Governments have stressed the need to do more to resettle Syrian refugees at three high-level conferences since 2016. The seven-year conflict has forced more than 5.6 million people to flee Syria, but less than three percent of them have been resettled in rich countries - the same percentage as in 2016. 

Meanwhile, countries neighbouring Syria host more than 90 percent of Syrian refugees, which puts a strain on their public services and their efforts to tackle existing unemployment and poverty.

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For more information, interviews or a copy of the analysis, contact Maria Jeffery on / +44 (0)7810 814 980

Notes for Editors:
  1. Resettlement is an option whereby a third country, not the one the refugee has fled from or the first country they reach, offers refugee status to an individual.  
  2. The UK government announced on 22 February that it had resettled 10,538 Syrian refugees through the Vulnerable Persons Resettlement Scheme. The scheme resettles the most vulnerable refugees who are currently in Egypt, Iraq, Jordan, Lebanon and Turkey, and will resettle 20,000 by 2020.
  3. In 2016, the UK government also made a commitment to resettle up to 3,000 at-risk children and their families under the Vulnerable Children's Resettlement Scheme, again by 2020. This scheme has no nationality requirement and is likely to include Syrians. But as of December 2017, only 570 refugees of all nationalities meeting this definition had been resettled. Even if all were Syrian children, this figure would fall well below what Oxfam believes is the UK's fair share. 
  4. Oxfam has updated its 'fair share' analysis showing the number of refugees resettled in 28 high-income countries from 2013 to December 2017. Read the previous analysis from December 2016 here. The fair share figure for each country is calculated on the basis of the size of their economies. The UK's fair share would be 32,488 refugees.

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