Thousands of refugees are fleeing Syria. Photo: TT
Sweden and Germany have been recognized for taking in more Syrian asylum seekers between them than the rest of the EU. But human rights group Amnesty International has accused its European neighbours of a "shocking" lack of support for people forced to flee their homes.
Germany and Sweden have received 64 percent of all EU asylum applications from Syrians escaping the ongoing conflict in their home nation, according to the new report by Amnesty International.
In Sweden, 50,235 people have sought asylum in the past three years. Sweden currently takes in more refugees per capita than any other European country and the Swedish government has pledged 1,200 resettlement places.
Germany received 46,265 new Syrian asylum applications in the same period, and the larger nation has pledged 30,000 resettlement places.
The remaining 26 EU countries have pledged a mere 5,105 resettlement places between them.
"While Germany and Sweden provide positive examples of burden sharing in the face of such, a large refugee crisis a very different picture emerges when looking at other EU countries," the report concludes.
The five largest countries in the EU (excluding Germany) UK, Italy, France, Spain and Poland have a combined population of 275 million people, but have offered just over 2,000 places for asylum seekers according to Amnesty.
“Countries cannot ease their consciences with cash pay-outs then simply wash their hands of the matter,” said Sherif Elsayed-Ali, Amnesty International’s Head of Refugee and Migrants’ Rights.
“With no end in sight to the conflict in Syria and little prospect of refugees being able to return home in the near future, resettlement is essential to help the most vulnerable and ease the burden on host countries in the region.”
Around 3.8 million refugees from are being hosted in five main countries within the region: Turkey, Lebanon, Jordan, Iraq and Egypt. Only 1.7 per cent of this number have been offered sanctuary by the rest of the world since the crisis began more than three years ago.
Syrian refugees at a camp in Lebanon. Photo: TT/Hussein Malla
Amnesty's report comes ahead of a major UN conference in Geneva on December 9th.
“Next week’s pledging conference must be used to turn the tide around. It is time for world governments to take the courageous steps needed to share the responsibility for this crisis and help avert further suffering,” said Sherif Elsayed-Ali.
“If a tiny country with a weak economy and huge debt like Lebanon can accommodate an increase of a quarter of its population others can certainly be doing more to help.”
The UN conference comes as Sweden's liberal immigration laws are shooting up the political agenda.
The nationalist Sweden Democrat Party came third in September's general election and could see its vote increased further in March. Sweden is holding a snap election in the spring after the government failed to get enough support for its budget, because the nationalists sided with the country's centre-right opposition parties.
A survey of 1,500 Swedes by polling service Novus in September showed 34 percent in favour of receiving fewer refugees, while 28 percent wanted more, and 32 percent considered the current level appropriate.
But none of the mainstream political parties have said that they will consider capping immigration to Sweden.
In an interview with Swedish daily Dagens Industri on Thursday, French Economy Minister Emmanuel Macron compared the growing clout of the Sweden Democrats with the rise of National Front in France.
"They exist because people voted for them. We have the same situation in France," Macron told the paper.
"But you should never try to compromise with these people, because they are liars."
He said Europe was experiencing difficult times that made it hard to be in government with growing public concerns about struggling economies and the consequences of globalisation.