Oxfam provided humanitarian aid to almost 9 million people last year — the most in its history — the vast majority of whom were fleeing conflict and disaster. The number of people forced to flee their homes, both refugees and those displaced within their own countries, is already at its highest level since World War II. The conflict in Syria has been a major factor, but people are also fleeing violence in South Sudan, Nigeria, Burundi, Iraq and Yemen, among others.
Oxfam's Senior Policy Adviser Ed Cairns told Sputnik:
"The vast majority of refugees, 86 percent, aren't hosted in richer countries; most are hosted in developing countries, including some of the poorest countries of the world. That is wrong and it's not sustainable. Aid Oxfam provides is vital, but the fundamental thing needed is a coherent global response which has been sadly lacking in the last few years."
His comments come as the UN Refugee Agency, UNHCR, reported that — of the US$11 billion pledged by the world's richest nations at the Syria summit in London, February — less than a quarter of it has actually been handed over to countries in the Middle East who are struggling to cope with refugees fleeing warzones.
Amin Awad, the United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees and director for the Middle East and North Africa, told reporters: "I think there's a collective failure that will have to addressed. I think the frontline states are disappointed and they feel they're left alone." Cairns told Sputnik:
"We strongly think there is not some kind of trade-off between rich countries providing generous aid and that absolving them of the responsibility to welcome a greater share of refugees. Both are important and delivering on pledges is equally important."
Cairns — while stating Oxfam takes no view on the referendum — told Sputnik:
"If you're sitting in a sinking boat in the Mediterranean, it doesn't matter very much whether you're a migrant, a refugee or anything else. If you're a child coming to Italy — and nine out of ten children arriving there come without their parents — it doesn't matter whether you're a migrant or anything else.There is a need for a more informed and compassionate discussion about migration.
"We're talking about the record 60 million people who have been forced to flee from conflicts and violence and persecution.
"We don't know what's going to happen [on June 23]. But we do know that the UK exists in a world in which there are record numbers of people who are being forced to flee their homes and is living in a world in which the burden of responsibility for helping those people falls hugely unfairly on developing countries, rather than rich countries," he told Sputnik.
Oxfam's campaign, Stand As One, aims to put pressure on world leaders to welcome more refugees, to prevent families from being separated and to keep people fleeing their homes safe from harm.