G20 Summit: Rich countries must pull a U-turn on shameful refugee response

The world’s wealthiest countries must end their shocking inaction and begin to lead a coordinated response to the spiralling global refugee crisis by proposing a concrete plan for resettling the 1.15 million most vulnerable refugees worldwide, and fully fund humanitarian needs, said Amnesty International ahead of the G20 summit in Antalya, Turkey.

To date, G20 member states have committed to resettling approximately 140,000 refugees from Syria – far below what is required. Last year, G20 countries offered resettlement places to a tenth of the refugees who needed them.

“World leaders have sat on the sidelines as a global refugee crisis of devastating proportions has unfolded before their eyes. Even worse, in some cases they have actively contributed to the misery by blocking refugees from seeking safety,” said Audrey Gaughran, Director for Global Issues at Amnesty International.

“As some of the world’s richest countries gather in Antalya they must not squander this opportunity to join forces to find concrete and meaningful ways to end the suffering of millions of vulnerable refugees. The G20 has a chance to prove its worth by serving as a springboard for bold action where other summits have shied away.”

"The G20 has a chance to prove its worth by serving as a springboard for bold action where other summits have shied away.”

Audrey Gaughran, Director for Global Issues at Amnesty International.

Amnesty International is also calling on G20 members to drastically scale up financial support for humanitarian assistance for millions of refugees who are suffering because of severe cuts and shortages in aid. As of November, the UN humanitarian appeal for Syria’s refugee crisis is only 50% funded.

The contrast between the major host countries for Syrian refugees and the response of the G20 powers is striking. Lebanon which has a GNI of $44.5 billion currently hosts the highest number of refugees per capita, while Russia, with a GNI of $1.9 trillion has not resettled any Syrian refugees at all.

“Until now most of the focus has been on Europe’s failing response to the crisis, but this summit is a chance for other G20 nations to show they are ready to accept the responsibility that comes with playing a leading role in international affairs.”

“While states like Germany and Turkey have been playing a crucial role in responding to the global refugee crisis, and Canada has recently committed to resettle 25,000 Syrian refugees in the next two months, others like Russia and Saudi Arabia have shown shockingly little compassion towards people fleeing brutal conflicts and persecution. It is not too late for countries to change course and salvage some moral decency,” said Audrey Gaughran.

“The Syrian crisis exemplifies this failure. G20 leaders at the summit cannot ignore that they are meeting in a country that is currently hosting more than two million refugees – a greater number than any other country in the world. The failure to come to their aid is a shocking example of the complete abdication of responsibility by some of the world’s wealthiest countries.”

“Only a few hundred kilometres from the luxury high security G20 summit meetings, thousands of women, men and children risk their lives each day on flimsy boats to reach safety on Europe’s shores. In the face of such a crisis, anything less than a concrete plan to fully fund humanitarian needs and clear, time-bound commitments to resettle refugees from each country will be an abject failure.”


Approximately 10% of Syria’s refugees – some 400,000 people – are particularly vulnerable and in need of resettlement. To date, countries around the world have pledged only a quarter of the resettlement places needed for refugees from Syria. The pledges that have actually been followed through on are much lower.

In recent months, Amnesty International has documented the abject failure of several G20 governments to respond to the global refugee crisis, most recently publishing damning evidence that officials from last year’s G20 host, Australia, may have paid bribes to smugglers to turn ships with refugees away from its shores.

Globally, 86% of refugees are hosted in developing countries. Of the four million refugees who have fled Syria, 95% of them are in just five main host countries: Turkey, Lebanon, Jordan, Iraq and Egypt.