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Amnesty slams EU refugee effort

December 13, 2013

Human rights group Amnesty International has slammed the EU for what it calls a 'pitiful' response to the Syrian refugee crisis. It called on the bloc to greatly increase its intake of people fleeing the civil war.

Syrian refugees in Jordan
Image: picture alliance/AP Photo

European Union leaders should "hang their heads in shame" at their failure to offer places to refugees fleeing the brutal conflict in Syria, Amnesty International (AI) said on Friday.

"The EU has miserably failed to play its part in providing a safe haven to the refugees who have lost all but their lives," AI Secretary General Salil Shetty said.

"The number of those it's prepared to resettle is truly pitiful. Across the board, European leaders should hang their heads in shame," Shetty added.

In a report published on Friday, AI said EU member states had offered places to just 12,340 people over the next year. Ten thousand of the places have been offered by Germany, while eighteen states, including Britain, have offered none.

It called on EU member states to "significantly increase the number of resettlement and humanitarian admission places for refugees from Syria."

The United Nations has sought to accommodate 30,000 Syrian refugees in the EU, which is a tiny fraction of the millions who have fled Syria during its more than two-and-a-half-year civil war.

Difficult entrance

Amnesty also condemned the EU for making legal entrance to the bloc so difficult, and for placing those refugees who did make it into squalid detention centers, where they might remain for weeks.

"The EU must open its borders, provide safe passage and halt these deplorable human rights violations," Shetty said.

AI also highlighted the plight of refugees who risk "life and limb" to reach Europe on often dangerous voyages by sea or land.

Just 50,000 Syrian refugees have managed to claim asylum in the EU. The vast majority of refugees has sought refuge with Syria's neighbors, particularly Lebanon and Jordan, which have set up enormous tent camps for hundreds of thousands of people.

About 126,000 people are thought to have died in Syria since a brutal crackdown on pro-democracy protests led to a full-blown civil war between opponents and supporters of President Bashar al-Assad.

tj/msh (AFP)