Australia must help boost flat-lining support for Syrians

Emergencies, General, Humanitarian Advocacy, News article written on the 01 Feb 2016

Australia and other rich countries must increase flat-lining aid support to the millions of Syrians affected by conflict when they meet in London this week, Oxfam said.

Little more than half the $12.6bn (US$8.9bn) needed to help people in Syria and surrounding countries was raised globally in 2015, and Oxfam analysis published today shows that Australia’s aid commitment was dwarfed by many other countries.

Oxfam Australia Chief Executive Helen Szoke said that while Australia’s aid funding provided welcome support for Syrians, it failed to meet the country’s fair share of what was needed to meet the basic needs of a people whose lives had been torn apart by war. Increased funding is vital to ensure refugees in neighbouring countries and those displaced within Syria received life-saving food, water and hygiene supplies.

“Australians showed a huge outpouring of compassion and support for the Syrian people last year, but unfortunately the Australian Government did not match this when it came to contributing its fair share of aid for those affected by the Syrian crisis,” Dr Szoke said.

“The Australian Government gave $67.7m (US$44.3m) to Syrian crisis appeals in 2015, just 37 per cent of its fair share of $169.5m (US$119.2m).

“This is a significant drop from where we were two years ago, when we gave 94 per cent of our fair share, and we are trailing well behind countries like the United Kingdom, Germany, Norway, and Kuwait that all gave more than 150 per cent.”

The analysis calculates how much aid and how many refugee resettlement places countries should give according to the size of their economy.

Australia, France and Russia have increased their direct involvement in the conflict, but failed to give as much aid as they should. France provided 45 per cent of its fair share, while Russia provided just 1 per cent. In comparison, Syria’s small neighbours Lebanon and Jordan, which host nearly 2 million refugees, have spent the equivalent of 6,892 per cent and 5,628 per cent of their fair share in aid respectively.

Dr Szoke said the upcoming London donors’ conference this Thursday (4 February) had to be a turning point.

“With no prospect of returning home any time soon, refugees are stuck between a rock and a hard place: receiving less aid, and unable to sustain themselves without the right to work or valid residency permits. They are forced into debt to pay rent and buy food, they reduce the numbers of daily meals, and they remove their children from school to send them to work in order to survive,” Dr Szoke said.

“Australia can’t sit by and watch this happen. We urge the Australian Government to meet its fair share of funding for the Syria crisis for 2016 of $178.2m (US$125.1m).”

Australia’s commitment to resettle 12,000 Syrian and Iraqi refugees last year saw it exceed its fair share of refugee resettlement for the year, but Dr Szoke called on the government to go further.

“Australia’s one-off boost to its humanitarian resettlement was a welcome move in the right direction, but it is still the bare minimum of what is needed,” Dr Szoke said. We continue to call on the Australian Government to increase its humanitarian intake to 30,000 annually. Australia as a wealthy country can and must do more to provide safe sanctuary for those fleeing violence in Syria and other crises around the world.”

For interviews with Helen Szoke, or spokespeople in the region, please contact Angus Hohenboken on 0428 367 318 or

For the fair share analysis for funding and resettlement pledges click here.