What are countries outside the EU doing to help Syrian refugees?
Though the majority of Syrian refugees have fled to Europe, many other countries have also provided support for asylum seekers.
According to the latest count from the United Nations, 4.1 million Syrians are registered as refugees. The majority have risked their lives to travel in overcrowded boats across the Mediterranean, in hopes of trekking across the Balkans to Germany. While countries in the European Union have strained to accommodate the refugees, countries outside of Europe have stepped up to offer help.
Labor law loopholes and expired hajj visas make counting refugees in the Gulf states difficult, but “Saudi Arabia says it has taken in more than 2.5 million Syrians since the outbreak of the conflict, while the United Arab Emirates says it has granted residency permits to 100,000 Syrians,” The Christian Science Monitor reported earlier this month.
Syrians have been exempt from deportation in Saudi Arabia and Kuwait. The Gulf states have also offered considerable financial support, a collective $4 billion since 2011, including $1.5 billion from Kuwait and $1.6 billion from Qatar, The Monitor reported.
Closer to the fighting, Turkey has also been a major player, accepting nearly 2 million Syrian refugees this year, according to numbers reported by Reuters earlier this month.
Lebanon has taken in 1.1 million refugees this year, making it the country with the highest per-capita concentration of refugees, and marking a “25 percent increase in the country’s 4.4 million population,” reported CNN.
Lebanon and Jordan have since stopped accepting refugees, but “Iraq is still open to those fleeing from Islamic State,” currently hosting 249,463 Syrian refugees.
Countries farther from the conflict are also realizing that additional support is necessary to solve what CNN describes as “the worst refugee crisis since the Rwandan genocide more than 20 years ago.”
From 5,000 miles away in Japan, Prime Minister Shinzo Abe announced increased monetary assistance during his address to the United Nations General Assembly on Tuesday. Japan will provide about $810 million for “refugees and internally displaced people in Syria and Iraq this year, about triple the amount from last year,” reported The New York Times.
Mr. Abe also pledged an additional $750 million to be used throughout the Middle East region “to help build peace and fully ensure this peace across the Middle East and Africa.”
Nearly 6,000 miles in the other direction, the United States has also donated funds and relief support.
Two weeks ago, President Obama revealed that the US would prepare to take in 10,000 Syrian refugees next year. The US currently takes in 70,000 total refugees each year, but has previously accepted “barely 1,800 Syrians” since fighting erupted in the country, reported Business Insider. Last week, Secretary of State John Kerry also announced the US refugee intake cap will increase to 100,000 by 2017.
In an emotional post on the White House website, Tanya Somanader, deputy director of digital content for the White House, brought the refugee crisis close to home.
The extent of the refugee crisis “is as if every student in the 45 largest US school districts – including New York, Chicago, and Los Angeles – had been uprooted by violence, hunger, or disease all at once,” Ms. Somanader wrote.
She continued “the importance of [US] aid cannot be underestimated. It is critical to helping people where they are, so they are not forced to take perilous journeys on fierce seas or entrust their welfare to human smugglers.” As it is not feasible for the US to take in millions of refugees, the US has provided $4.5 billion in financial assistance, Somanader said.
Despite this aid, the Obama administration has received considerable pushback. Human Rights First, an independent advocacy and action organization, issued a statement saying Obama’s announcement “falls far short of the kind of bold leadership that should be provided by the United States.”
While the State Department usually holds that “welcoming refugee populations enriches the US, is a boon to local economies, and is the right thing for the US to do,” a senior official cited “the US leads the world in resettling refugees,” in an interview with The Christian Science Monitor earlier this month.
In a typical year, the 70,000 refugees the US takes in annually accounts for nearly 70 percent of the global total. But that will not be true this year.
Other nations are helping out, too. Algeria provides asylum for some 25,000 Syrian refugees, Bahrain and Libya have both taken in about 5,000, and Canada “has registered 2,374 Mideast refugees and plans to accept 10,000 over the next three years,” reported the Inquisitr.
The United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees has also received large donations outside of European nations: $160 million from the US, $120 million from Kuwait, and $24 million from Australia to help provide for displaced Syrians.