Europe’s leaders “should hang their heads in shame” over their failure to take in more than a tiny proportion of refugees who have fled Syria’s desperate civil war, rights group Amnesty International said Friday.
European Union nations have offered to open their doors to a little more than 12,000 of the most vulnerable refugees from Syria, Amnesty International said, describing the number as “pitifully low.”
The figure represents 0.5% of the more than 2.3 million people who have fled the country since the conflict began in March 2011.
More than half the 2.3 million refugees registered by the United Nations are children.
At least 4.25 million have been forced from their homes within Syria, Amnesty International said, making the total number displaced above 6.5 million — nearly a third of the country’s population.
In this dire situation, the countries neighboring Syria — Lebanon, Jordan, Turkey, Iraq and Egypt — have taken in 97% of the refugees, according to U.N. figures.
Within Europe, 10 EU member nations have promised to resettle 12,340 refugees. Of these, 10,000 places have been offered by Germany.
Outside Europe, Australia and Canada have promised to take in about 1,800 refugees between them.
In light of its report, Amnesty International has called for “an urgent and significant increase” in the number of resettlement places offered to refugees from Syria.
As winter closes in, the situation of refugees packed into temporary camps will only worsen. A huge storm that dropped snow and rain whipped by high winds onto Turkey, Syria, Jordan and Lebanon this week has added to the suffering. The Bekaa Valley in eastern Lebanon, where thousands of Syrian refugees are living in tents, has been badly affected.