Conflict & Justice

EU leaders should 'hang their heads in shame' over Syrian refugee crisis, says Amnesty (PHOTOS)


Syrian civilians flee the northern Syrian city of Aleppo on April 12, 2013.



The European Union has opened its doors to a “pitifully low” number of Syrian refugees and leaders in the region should “hang their heads in shame,” Amnesty International said Friday in a damning report on the international response to the growing refugee crisis.

Only 10 EU states have offered temporary protection or permanent residency to Syrians who have fled their war-torn country since March 2011, Amnesty said in the report entitled “An international failure: The Syrian refugee crisis.”

A total of 12,340 places have been offered across the EU, which Amnesty said was the equivalent to the number of refugees registered in Lebanon in the last five days of November.

Germany has been the most generous of all the EU states, offering temporary protection to 10,000 refugees. But 18 EU states, including Britain and Italy, have offered no places at all. 

“The EU has miserably failed to play its part in providing a safe haven to the refugees who have lost all but their lives,” Salil Shetty, Secretary General of Amnesty International, said in a statement.

“The number of those it’s prepared to resettle is truly pitiful. Across the board European leaders should hang their heads in shame.”

With so few places on offer, tens of thousands of Syrian refugees have tried to reach Europe by land or sea in the hope of being granted asylum. Many have perished along the way, been sent back to where they came from or endured “deplorable conditions” if they were lucky enough to reach their destination, which has been mainly Bulgaria, Greece and Italy, the report said.

Around 5,000 Syrian refugees arrived in Bulgaria in the first 11 months of this year.

A Syrian woman poses for a photo with her four-year-old son at the Vrazhdebna refugee centre in the Bulgarian capital of Sofia on Oct. 24, 2013. DIMITAR DILKOFF AFP/Getty Images

In the first 10 months of this year, 9851 people were detained along the Greece-Turkey land and sea borders.

Members of a Syrian family sit in their shared apartment in Athens, Greece, on April 19, 2013. LOUISA GOULIAMAKI AFP/Getty Images

An estimated 10,680 Syrians arrived illegally along Italy’s coast in the first 10 months of the year. A Syrian family stands in the main train station of Milan, Italy, on Oct 17, 2013. GIUSEPPE CACACE AFP/Getty Images

In the two years to the end of October, just 55,000 Syrian refugees have managed to claim asylum in the EU.

The United Nations estimates 2.3 million Syrians have fled their country since the bloody conflict began. The vast majority of them – 97 percent -- are living in Lebanon, Jordan, Turkey, Iraq and Egypt, straining resources in those countries.

The UN hopes to secure 30,000 permanent or temporary places for Syrian refugees by the end of next year, but so far it has received pledges for just 15,244.

In the report, Amnesty called on the international community to "share responsibility" for Syrian refugees and provide greater support to those countries bearing the brunt of the crisis. 

The following is a list of the EU countries that have put their hands up for Syrian refugees so far.

Austria has granted 500 Syrian refugees humanitarian admission (temporary protection on humanitarian grounds)

A Syrian women shows the fine her family received from Austrian police on Oct. 17, 2013. The family of four was arrested and fined after they were caught taking a train to Germany. GIUSEPPE CACACE AFP/Getty Images

Finland has offered to resettle – which means offering permanent residency – 500 refugees.

Former Finnish President Tarja Halonen talks to Syrian leader Bashar al-Assad during a news conference in Damascus on Oct. 22, 2009. LOUAI BESHARA AFP/Getty Images

France has pledged 500 humanitarian admission places.

French President Francois Hollande's partner, Valerie Trierweiler, greets a child as she visits the Dalhamiyyeh camp for Syrian refugees in Lebanon's Bekaa Valley on Nov. 5, 2013. JOSEPH EID AFP/Getty Images

Germany has been the most generous of all the EU states, offering temporary protection to 10,000 refugees.

Syrian refugees stand outside a refugee center in Friedland, Germany, on Nov. 21, 2013. Jens Schlueter Getty Images

Hungary has agreed to resettle 10 refugees.  

Syrian refugees arriving in the Lebanese border town of Arsal wait to register with authorities on Nov. 18, 2013. - AFP/Getty Images

Ireland will offer permanent residency to 90 refugees.

Syrian refugee children sit on the ground in a makeshift camp in Ankara, Turkey, on Oct. 4, 2013.AFP/Getty Images

Luxembourg will resettle 60 refugees.

Members of a Syrian family flee their home in Syria's eastern town of Deir Ezzor on Sept. 19, 2013. AFP/Getty Images

The Netherlands has agreed to resettle 250 refugees.

Syrian refugees arrive in the southern Lebanese town of Shebaa after fleeing their village across the border on March 21, 2013.AFP/Getty Images

Only 30 refugees will be resettled in Spain.

Syrian civilians flee the northern Syrian city of Aleppo on April 12, 2013. DIMITAR DILKOFF AFP/Getty Images

Sweden will offer permanent residency to 400 refugees.

A mother and son from Syria stand outside the Syrian Association in Vaellingby, Sweden, on Nov. 19, 2013. JONATHAN NACKSTRAND AFP/Getty Images

Non-EU countries that have pledged to take refugees include: Australia (500, resettlement); Canada (1,300, including 200 for resettlement, 1,100 by private sponsorship); Lichtenstein (four, resettlement); Moldova (50 resettlement); Norway (1,000, resettlement); Switzerland (50, resettlement); US (Open-ended number on resettlement).