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Humanitarian relief

62 - Response to Syrian refugee crisis

Grade: C+
Unity 2/5
Resources 3/5
Outcome 5/10
Total 10/20

Europeans made financial contributions to the response to the humanitarian crisis in Syria but were less generous in accepting refugees.

The humanitarian crisis in Syria dwarfed other emergencies in 2013. In June, the UN launched appeals aiming to help roughly 13 million Syrians inside and outside the country at a cost of €4.4 billion. The financial response from EU member states varied considerably. By the end of the year, the UK had committed a total of nearly €600 million to the crisis and Germany over €200 million. By contrast, France pledged only €15 million in 2013 (and €30 million since the crisis began), despite its political engagement in Syria. Denmark, the Netherlands, and Sweden were also notable donors, while Belgium, Ireland, and Finland all made it a priority. Italy and Spain put a significant percentage of their limited funds towards the crisis. As in broader humanitarian affairs, the European Commission has helped fill funding gaps, offering over €500 million from the start of the crisis to late 2013. 

Although Syria’s neighbours have borne the brunt of the refugee crisis, Bulgaria has had to shelter between 5,000 and 10,000 in 2013, though it was slow to respond. Over 11,000 Syrians have been arrested trying to cross into Greece, and concerns have been raised about the conditions in which they are kept. Cyprus and Romania has also been obvious destinations for refugees. The UNHCR has tried to persuade other European governments to take in some Syrians to relieve the pressure on those countries nearer the crisis. Sweden announced that it would offer vetted Syrians permanent residence (by which point there were estimated to be nearly 15,000 in the country) while Germany has offered 5,000 places. But other member states were less welcoming: France and Finland offered to take 500 refugees each and most other European governments indicated that they were willing to accept just ten or 15. Even Sweden and Germany’s offers must be compared to the fact that there are two million Syrian refugees in the Middle East.