GENEVA: Wealthy countries have resettled only a fraction of the nearly five million refugees who have fled Syria, Oxfam said on Tuesday, urging them to step up and do their share.

The British charity called on wealthy countries to resettle at least 10 per cent of the 4.8 million Syrian refugees registered in the region surrounding the war-ravaged nation by the end of the year.

So far, rich countries have pledged less than 130,000 resettlement spots, and only around 67,100 people — a mere 1.39 per cent of the refugees — have made it to their final destinations since 2013, Oxfam said.

The charity issued its report ahead of an unprecedented UN-hosted conference in Geneva on Wednesday, where countries will be asked to pledge resettlement spots for Syrian refugees.

As the brutal conflict enters its sixth year, most of the people who have fled are located in Syria’s neighbours such as Turkey, Lebanon, Jordan and Iraq.

But as the war has dragged on and conditions have worsened in the surrounding states, Syrians have increasingly set their sights on Europe, accounting for most of the more than one million migrants who risked their lives crossing the Mediterranean last year.

They are also believed to be heavily represented among the more than 7,500 people, including many children, who have died trying to make the crossing since 2014.

Wednesday’s conference, which will be opened by UN Secretary General Ban Ki-moon, will aim to ensure “global responsibility sharing” for the crisis sparked by Syria’s brutal conflict, which has claimed more than 270,000 lives.

“To date the response to calls of increased resettlement of vulnerable refugees has been disappointing, and the conference is an opportunity for states to mark a change of course,” the Oxfam report said.

The charity said its analysis showed only three of the world’s wealthy countries — Canada, Germany and Norway — had pledged more resettlement spots than what was considered their “fair share” according to the size of their economies.

Published in Dawn, March 30th, 2016

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