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Oxfam: Rich states resettle only a tiny fraction of Syrian refugees

Aid agency Oxfam has reported that only 1.39 percent of five million Syrian refugees have been resettled by the world's wealthy nations. The report comes a day ahead of a key UN meeting on those fleeing Syria.

A UN-hosted conference in Geneva on Wednesday will see participating countries asked to pledge resettlement places for Syrian refugees currently residing outside of their home country.

Winnie Byanyima, executive director of Oxfam International, said: "Six years into this terrible crisis, more than 4.8 million Syrian people are now refugees in Turkey, Lebanon, Jordan and elsewhere in the region. The most vulnerable of them - women, children, the elderly - can't go back, but don't have the resources or support to live properly where they are. They need help moving forward to a better future."

Oxfam has called for rich countries to resettle or offer other forms of humanitarian admission to 10 percent of all registered refugees by the end of 2016, the equivalent of around 480,000 people. Collectively, rich nations have so far offered places to 129,966 people - and of those, only 67,000 have actually made it to their final destination since 2013. That's according to Oxfam's figures, which were taken from information drawn from publicly available sources, including the UN's human rights agency (UNHCR).

Oxfam says it uses the following definition of resettlement: An option whereby a third county (i.e. not the one the refugee has fled from, nor the country of first asylum or habitual residence) offers refugee status in its territory to an individual.

Wednesday's conference in Geneva will be opened by UN Secretary General Ban Ki-moon. It will aim to ensure "global responsibility sharing" for the Syria conflict, which has claimed more than 270,000 lives.

"Countries with a strong economy, good services and developed infrastructure can immediately resettle 500,000 refugees between them - if they chose to," Oxfam's Byanyima said. To date only Canada, Germany and Norway have pledged more resettlement places than Oxfam's estimation of a "fair share" according to the size of the countries' respective economies. Australia, Finland, Iceland, Sweden and New Zealand have pledged more than half of their fair share, the organization estimates.

In Syria's neighbor, Lebanon, one in five inhabitants is a Syrian refugee. In Jordan, they constitute 10 percent of the population, and the fourth largest 'city' is a refugee camp.

"These countries have fragile economies and weak infrastructure. They can no longer shoulder this responsibility virtually alone. The Geneva meeting should result in urgent solutions, offering people safe and legal routes to a welcome in third countries," Byanyima said.

jm/gsw (AFP, EPD, Oxfam)

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