We’ve received a number of questions about where to donate to help with the Syrian refugee crisis. Millions of Syrians have fled the war in their country, risking their lives. Images of the immense suffering accompanying this journey have captured headlines in recent weeks.
Although GiveWell hasn’t focused its work on disaster relief organizations, we have in the past recommended support to Doctors Without Borders (MSF), which we feel has distinguished itself as a relief organization with above-average transparency. Previous general advice from GiveWell on giving to help with disaster relief can be found here.
According to its website, MSF is operating six medical facilities in northern Syria and is directly supporting over 100 health posts and field hospitals across the country, including in besieged areas. MSF has also provided health services to Syrian refugees in Iraq, Jordan, and Lebanon, as well as Roszke, Hungary. MSF generally asks that donors make unrestricted donations to enable the organization to allocate its resources where needs are the greatest, a position we support.
We have not looked into other organizations that are fundraising to support their work on this crisis.
In my view, helping refugees after they’ve left Syria primarily requires political advocacy, rather than direct aid. U.S.-based donors may consider signing the White House petition calling for more Syrian refugees to be resettled here.
Beyond the scope of today’s refugee crisis, working toward a world in which more people can change their lives for the better by migrating is one of the Open Philanthropy Project’s highest priorities.
Also, Google is matching the first 5 million euro, for a goal of 10 million euro total. https://onetoday.google.com/page/refugeerelief/
Regarding resettlement of refugees, it’s likely to be far more cost-effective (by a factor of around 15) to support them in the Middle East where possible rather than to resettle them to high income countries like the USA. Government funds would likely help far more refugees if spent on closing the substantial current UNHCR funding shortfall than if spent on resettling refugees in developed countries. http://www.cis.org/High-Cost-of-Resettling-Middle-Eastern-Refugees
I should have said “a factor of 10-15”; the reference cited suggests a factor of 12 for the USA and a factor of 15 for Germany. In 2015 the UNHCR only received 58% of the funding it needed to help Syrian refugees in 2015 http://data.unhcr.org/syrianrefugees/regional.php and this is leading to severe cuts in food rations and closure of clinics http://www.theguardian.com/world/2015/sep/06/refugee-crisis-un-agencies-broke-failing
Philip – my impression is that the U.S. is unlikely to use the funds that might be spent on resettling refugees here on supporting them abroad, and that accordingly there is little tradeoff in practice between admitting additional refugees and supporting those remaining in the region. Additionally, I would guess that admitting some number of refugees has larger net benefits in humanitarian terms than simply paying for food and shelter for that number of people in other countries, even though the latter might have a higher benefit-cost ratio (because the benefits are smaller but the costs are much smaller). Also, you may already know this, but many other groups that do research on immigration issues have expressed a great deal of skepticism about CIS’ work.
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