Europe urged to shelter more Syrian refugees
The Council of European Churches (CEC) has appealed to European governments to offer asylum to more refugees fleeing the Syrian conflict.
There are concerns for the estimated six million people who have been displaced, either internally or forced to flee the country, as a result of fighting between the Free Syrian Army and government forces.
More than 2.2 million Syrians are either registered or awaiting registration in nearby countries, including Lebanon, Jordan, Iraq and parts of North Africa.
The CEC said in a statement of concern that the resources of neighbouring countries resources are at "breaking point" and the EU needs to make it easier for suffering refugees to come to member countries.
"More than two years into the Syrian conflict, an overwhelming regional humanitarian crisis is unfolding as refugees struggle on a daily basis to access the most basic services including shelter, health, water, sanitation and primary education," the CEC said.
From the start of the conflict in 2011 up until August 2013, there have been approximately 53,000 applications for asylum from Syrian nations to European countries, most of these to Sweden or Germany.
Care of refugees is one of the provisions in the CEC's ecumenical charter, which commits member organisations to doing their part "towards giving migrants, refugees and asylum-seekers a humane reception in Europe".
The statement of concern was approved by the CEC Executive Board during a meeting at the Ecumenical Centre in Geneva at the end of November.
Additional policy recommendations include initiating a Europe-wide moratorium on the return of refugees to Syria and greater coordination to support European countries receiving a larger volume of refugees.