$5.5B Price Tag for EU’s Aid to Syrian Refugees

     (CN) – Europe has spent over $5.5 billion to alleviate the Syrian refugee crisis, which the European Commission said Wednesday had become “the world’s worst humanitarian disaster.”
     Ahead of a meeting of the world’s top diplomats and relief agencies in London on Thursday, the commission said the European Union and its 28 member states have given over $5.5 billion collectively in humanitarian and economic aid alone. The figure does not represent what the EU has spent on its own border security or help given to member states who have agreed to take in the tide of refugees.
     The commission said that since the crisis in Syria began in 2011, it has given over $1.1 billion in humanitarian assistance including food, water, sanitation, hygiene and shelter to millions inside Syria and its neighbors.
     But the commission has spent even more – nearly $1.8 billion – on nonhumanitarian aid: Over $1 billion for medium-term needs like education, employment, health and basic services for refugees living in Syria, Jordan and Lebanon; $200 million to help Jordan cope with the influx of refugees fleeing there; $200 million to help opposition forces in Syria and to support the destruction of chemical weapons stockpiles; $276 million to help Turkey deal with its own crush of refugees; and $29 million for democracy and human rights.
     The commission said the money spent has given nearly 3 million people in Syria basic human needs like food, water and medicine. Another 2.3 million Syrian children have improved access to education thanks to the generosity of Europe.
     Meanwhile, the commission said it is in the process of spending $3.3 billion on a refugee facility in Turkey above the nearly $400 million already spent there on humanitarian and nonhumanitarian aid. Turkey has taken in over 2.5 million Syrian refugees, the most of any nation in the world, and needs a central clearinghouse for both humanitarian aid and to process and register incoming refugees.
     The commission also spent $116 million in Iraq in 2015, calling the crisis there a “level 3 emergency with 10 million people in need of humanitarian aid, in a country of 36 million.”
     Between 2012 and 2015, the U.S. Agency for International Development says it has spent just over $4.5 billion on its humanitarian response in Syria. But despite all the help from the United States and the EU, the agency said this past December that 13.5 million Syrians are still in need of humanitarian assistance and 6.3 million remain “food-insecure” – lacking reliable access to sufficient amounts of affordable and nutritious food.
     Syria has been rocked by civil war since its president Bashar al-Assad cracked down on protests during the Arab Spring in 2011.
     United Nations-mediated peace talks began on Monday in Geneva, although the fighting has continued unabated.

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