Norway increases aid to Syrian refugees, migrants

Norway is to increase aid to Syrian refugees and send another boat to patrol the Mediterranean (AFP Photo/Mahmud Turkia) (AFP/File)

Oslo (AFP) - Norway said Thursday it would increase its financial aid to Syrian refugees to nearly 120 million euros ($134 million) and would send another vessel to help patrol the Mediterranean.

In the government's spring budget bill to be presented on May 12, humanitarian aid to refugees in Syria and neighbouring countries will be increased by 250 million kroner to 1.0 billion kroner (119.1 million euros, $134 million) this year, Prime Minister Erna Solberg told parliament.

Norway is already the seventh biggest donor to the Syrian crisis in absolute numbers, and the second per capita behind Kuwait, she said.

Solberg countered the opposition's demand to welcome 10,000 Syrian refugees over the next two years, arguing that aid was more effective when it was distributed locally and that the country was already struggling to find housing for existing refugees.

In 2015, the wealthy Scandinavian country plans to take in 1,500 Syrian refugees as part of the UN's High Commissioner for Refugees annual quotas.

"The cost of settling in 1,000 refugees is estimated at one billion kroner over five years," Solberg said.

"That means that instead of taking in one refugee in Norway, we can help 14 who are living in camps or 27 who do not live in camps in the region."

According to the Norwegian government, some 5,000 people who have been granted residency permits remain in refugee centres in Norway due to a lack of housing.

Solberg said her country would also offer Frontex, the European border control agency, a second rescue vessel in addition to one already offered to help patrol the Mediterranean, where migrants are risking their lives to reach Europe.