Millions of Syrian refugees abandoned

Emergencies, In the field article written on the 09 Sep 2014

Photo: Maya Hautefeuille/Oxfam

Despite being the largest humanitarian crisis in the world, the international response to the Syria Crisis is failing.

Oxfam’s latest report, ‘A Fairer Deal for Syrians,’ reveals the millions of refugees who have fled with their lives have now been abandoned due to an inadequate international response.

The continued supply of arms is fuelling widespread violations and undermining peace efforts, while $7.7 billion worth of humanitarian appeals are less than half funded.

Three and a half years on since the crisis began, the generosity of neighbouring countries is at breaking point. Rich countries are offering safe haven to a paltry number of refugees from Syria while countries like Jordan and Lebanon struggle to support more than 3 million people who have fled the conflict.

Ghossoun, 38, a school teacher, remembers her family’s escape from Syria, sitting on a mattress in Jordan, where they took refuge a year and a half ago. Five of her children, aged 12 to 2, huddle around her. Ritaj, her four-month-old daughter, was born in Amman (Jordan).

“To reach the Jordanian border, we walked for more than an hour at night. I was holding my two-month-old son tightly, my heart pounding with fear. When I got to the crossing, I couldn’t find my husband and four daughters. Then gunfire erupted behind me. I thought I lost them. Those were the most terrifying minutes of my life.”

Her husband Samer, 39, an agronomy specialist, recalls how the security situation deteriorated in Daraa, in South-West Syria.

“At first, shelling happened mainly in the morning. Then suddenly, without a warning, it would start any time of day or night.”

One day in early 2013, the shelling became unbearable.

“We fled under a heavy downpour of rain,” said Samer.

For now, they rent a run-down two room flat for 150 Jordanian Dinars a month (210 USD), and survive on jobs that Samer is able to find from time to time — in addition to receiving humanitarian aid.

But Jordanian labour laws make it nearly impossible for Syrian refugees to get work permits. As a result, Syrians face major difficulties finding reliable income, which means that many little savings and are now reliant on aid.

Ghossoun’s brother made a tough call. He paid a smuggler 3,000 JOD (more than 4,000 USD) to make a harrowing trip to Sweden. First he flew to Algiers then went to Libya. From there he crossed the Mediterranean on a small boat to Italy, and arrived in Sweden.

Oxfam is calling on the UN to impose an arms embargo on all warring parties in Syria and is urging governments of rich countries to provide their fair share of aid, and offer resettlement to greater numbers of refugees fleeing violence.

More than 22,000 Australians have signed our petition urging the Australian government to give our fair share of aid. Please join them now.