The U.K.'s secretary of state for international development has urged other European nations to donate more aid money to help refugees who have fled from Syria's civil war to neighboring countries.
In an interview with BuzzFeed News, Justine Greening said this would tackle the Syrian refugee crisis more effectively than focusing solely on the relatively few asylum-seekers who flee west.
"My message to other European countries is you need to do more to help the refugees that we're helping who are just over the border" from Syria, Greening said. "We can have a debate and a discussion at the EU level about where this group of people who are risking their lives to come over here should go, [but] that is not a discussion about how you fix the root causes."
The U.K. has given $1.25 billion (£800 million) in aid to help remedy the effects of Syria's ongoing brutal civil war on the country and its neighbors, making it the largest bilateral donor to this cause after the U.S. The conflict, which recently entered its fifth year, has created over 4 million refugees.
Greening said the U.K.'s aid was helping Syrians who had fled to neighboring states such as Lebanon and Jordan, where the vast majority of the refugees are located, therefore getting at the root of the crisis.
Despite the aid, Lebanon's infrastructure has been completely overstretched by the influx of Syrian refugees and the nation has put in place restrictions on new arrivals, The Guardian reported on Monday.
But the U.K. is under fire for taking in far fewer asylum-seekers at home than some of its European counterparts, with a senior U.N. official being the latest to strongly criticize the country on this front, The Telegraph reported on Sunday.
The U.K. has taken in around 4,000 Syrian refugees, Greening told BuzzFeed News. Germany has pledged 30,000 places under U.N. resettlement schemes alone. Sweden has taken in more Syrian refugees than the U.K. under just one family reunification scheme last year, Al Jazeera reported in March.
Theresa May, the U.K.'s home secretary, has referred to the U.K.'s large aid spending in the region to counter criticism that the government is giving the cold shoulder to over 100,000 migrants and asylum-seekers who have crossed the Mediterranean so far this year to reach Europe. There has been a sharp rise in such crossings this year, with a third of the people coming from Syria, according to the U.N.'s refugee agency.