Posted by Mona Chalabi
At the time of writing, the number of Syrian refugees stands at 2,386,087 - more than double the entire population of Cyprus.
The crisis is so severe that last year, the United Nations launched the biggest appeal in its 69-year history. But the response so far has not matched the scale or nature of the crisis.
Last year, the UN high commissioner for refugees (UNHCR) published a documentemphasising that states need to provide more than "financial, economic, and technical support".
More specifically, the UN has called on states to do more to help Syrian refugees with resettlement, humanitarian admission, and family reunification. They explain:
"resettlement involves the selection and transfer of refugees from a state in which they have sought protection to a third state which has agreed to admit them as refugees. Humanitarian admission is a similar, but expedited, process providing a solution for those in greatest need."
The programme aims to help 30,000 Syrians through such measures by the end of 2014 - 1.3% of the total number of Syrian refugees and 0.5% of the 6.5 million people who have been displaced from their homes but remain within Syria's borders (knowns as IDPs or internally displaced persons).
By October 2013, 16 countries had together offered a total of 10,000 places. By January, that number had grown to 19 countries and 18,000 places. This is how the list currently looks once the UK's recent offer of 500 has been added. The table beneath shows the detailed breakdown
Where are they at the moment?
In the case of resettlement mentioned above, the 'third state' is most often one of Syria's neighbouring countries - each of whom is struggling to cope with the number of refugees that have crossed their borders. The chart below shows the number of registered refugees in each of those countries, their total population size as well as the amount of money they have requested in aid.
Who is a vulnerable refugee?
The UK has sought to emphasise that their participation in the programme is based strictly on need. Nick Clegg, the deputy prime minister, said "the UK will be providing refuge to some of the most vulnerable Syrian refugees" which may appear confusing to those who believe that being a refugee is, in itself, a source of vulnerability.
To clarify, Clegg went on to add "the UNHCR – which backs our new resettlement programme – has said the highest priority should go to women and girls who have experienced or are at risk of sexual violence; the elderly; and survivors of torture and individuals with disabilities, so that's who we'll target."
In addition to the types of vulnerability mentioned by the deputy prime minister, the UN also cites LGBT refugees, those in need of family reunification and those belonging to minority groups as individuals who are particularly vulnerable.
Though the pledge by the UK may seem small in light of the scale of the Syrian crisis, and the number of places offered by other states, domestic political considerations continue to heavily affect decisions about UK contributions.