As reports of a new military offensive by Syrian and Russian forces made headlines on Wednesday, Oxfam International rebuked wealthy and powerful nations for flooding the war-torn country with weapons, fueling bloodshed on all sides, and failing to adequately assist those seeking aid and refuge.
In a briefing entitled Solidarity with Syrians (pdf), Oxfam singles out the United States, Iran, Qatar, Russia, Saudi Arabia, and Turkey for “fueling violence and violations of war in Syria through arms and ammunition transfers to parties to the conflict.”
The report also slams the international community for its “cursory and insincere” efforts to arrive at a political resolution to the crisis.
“The violence in Syria is intensifying, fueled by a divided international community and the transfer of arms and ammunition to warring parties,” said Andy Baker, head of Oxfam’s Syria crisis response, in a statement accompanying the report. “Faced with this grim situation, many Syrians are literally jumping in the water to seek a better future.”
“The violence in Syria is intensifying, fueled by a divided international community and the transfer of arms and ammunition to warring parties. Faced with this grim situation, many Syrians are literally jumping in the water to seek a better future.”
—Andy Baker, Oxfam
For those Syrians forced to flee their homeland, says Oxfam, too many are being met with a faltering aid response from the international community, including from governments most able to afford assistance.
“Most wealthy countries are not contributing their fair share to the aid response—appeals are now funded at 44 percent only,” the report states. “They have also failed to provide safe and legal routes for Syrians to their territory, including not doing enough to ensure that vulnerable refugees are offered resettlement and other forms of humanitarian admission in sufficient numbers.”
The United States, United Kingdom, and Kuwait are identified by researchers as “less than generous in their offers to welcome the most vulnerable refugees”—with the U.S. resettling just 8 percent of its “fair share.”
The assessment follows growing criticism that the U.S. is turning its back on refugees, admitting less than 1,500 since 2011. Syrian-American community organizer Sarab Al-Jijakli recently criticized the U.S. for its “disingenuous and deficient approach, to say the least. Our nation of immigrants must do more to help mitigate the greatest humanitarian crisis of our time.”
“Refugees from Syria and other countries have the right to be free from violence, to aid for basic needs and dignity, and to a welcome of safe haven,” said Oxfam executive director Winnie Byanyima. “They are being short-changed on all three fronts. There will be no end to the suffering of people from Syria until action is taken on these issues.”
Since 2011, over 250,000 people in Syria have been killed and over one million wounded. Today, 10 million are without enough to eat and over half of Syria’s pre-crisis population has been forced to flee their homes. Despite the heavy focus on the refugee crisis in Europe, the vast majority of the four million people who are registered as refugees are in Jordan, Lebanon, Turkey, Iraq, and Egypt. Palestinian refugees who had resided in Syria are also being displaced.
“The aid response is faltering due to lack of funds—or more accurately, the lack of political will to loosen up funds,” said Baker. “Rich countries have ignored repeated alarm bells.”
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