World Bulletin / News Desk
OECD countries more than doubled spending on the refugee crisis last year to $12 billion (10.6 billion euros), the organisation said Wednesday as anti-poverty campaigners feared a drain on development aid.
"Countries have had to find large sums to cover the costs of a historic refugee crisis in Europe," the Paris-based Organisation for Economic Cooperation and Development said.
But it noted that "most have so far avoided diverting money from development programmes".
An unprecedented 1.5 million people claimed asylum in OECD countries in 2015, including more than a million in Europe.
In Austria, Greece, Italy, the Netherlands and Sweden, refugee costs accounted for more than 20 percent of aid expenditure in 2015, the 34-member organisation said in a report.
"Governments... need to develop long-term options for meeting future refugee costs and the integration of refugees in our societies, while ensuring at the same time that ODA (official development assistance) reaches those countries and people that need it the most," OECD chief Angel Gurria said.
The outlays for hosting refugees accounted for the bulk of a 6.9 percent increase in development aid for the year, but excluding the funds spent on refugees, aid was still up 1.7 percent in real terms, the OECD said.
"Measured in real terms -- correcting for inflation and for a sharp depreciation in many... currencies against the dollar last year -- (aid) is up 83 percent since 2000, when the Millennium Development Goals were agreed," the report said.
'Slight increase in aid'
But development charity Oxfam said "most of the increase is down to the fact that some rich governments artificially declared costs for receiving refugees in their own countries as development aid".
While welcoming the "slight increase" in development aid, Oxfam's Natalie Alonso said: "We still live in a world of plenty where almost 900 million people suffer from extreme poverty."
The report covered the 28 of the OECD's member states that make up the Development Assistance Committee (DAC).
Of those, only six countries -- Denmark, Luxembourg, the Netherlands, Norway, Sweden and Britain -- met a UN target to keep aid at or above 0.7 percent of gross national income (GNI), the report noted.
The average for DAC countries was 0.3 percent of GNI, the same level as in 2014.
"We need to remember that the best way to achieve the Sustainable Development Goals and avoid future refugee crises is to continue the current momentum of aid flows, particularly to the neediest and most fragile countries," said DAC chairman Erik Solheim.
The anti-poverty campaign ONE co-founded by Bono warned in February of "a dangerous trend" of overseas development aid being diverted to help refugees arriving in Europe.
It faulted the OECD for "allowing" countries to include some of these costs in their aid budgets, saying: "If this continues it will result in big chunks of overseas aid staying at home."
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