Reuters International

By Lin Taylor

LONDON (Thomson Reuters Foundation) - Charities have criticised donor governments for shifting aid money from poor countries and spending more on dealing with refugees at home after overall development aid hit a new high in 2015.

Official development assistance (ODA) reached a record $131.4 billion in 2015, a rise of 6.6 percent in real terms from 2014, according to Organisation for Economic Co-operation and Development (OECD) figures released on Wednesday.

Of that total, $12.1 billion was spent on hosting and processing refugees in rich countries - around double the amount spent in the previous year.

The Paris-based thinktank said the rise in spending on refugees in donor countries did not have a significant impact on development programmes because half the donors used money from outside their aid budgets to cover these costs.

However, several international charities expressed concern over the new trend in spending.

Advocacy group ONE, which campaigns to fight extreme poverty, said rich nations should tackle the root causes of forced migration instead of using aid money to host refugees in their own country.

"It's crucial that we protect and support people fleeing war and insecurity. But it is short-sighted to do this by shifting resources away from the world's poorest people," Sara Harcourt, ONE's Policy Director of Development Finance, told the Thomson Reuters Foundation in a statement.

Hilary Jeune, aid policy expert at charity group Oxfam International, said OECD aid figures should not include refugee costs, adding: "This is aid which never leaves rich countries".

The OECD said even if refugee costs were excluded, net ODA in 2015 still grew by 1.3 percent in real terms.

Syria received the most aid funds in 2015 with $4.9 billion in development assistance, followed by Afghanistan with $4.3 billion, then Pakistan, Ethiopia and India.

Of the 28 members of the OECD's Development Assistance Committee (DAC), the United States remained the largest donor in 2015 giving $30.1 billion in aid, followed by Britain with $18.5 billion, Germany, Japan and France.

    Only six donors - Denmark, Luxembourg, Netherlands, Norway, Sweden and Britain - exceeded the United Nations' target of spending 0.7 percent of national income on development aid.

OECD released preliminary figures on 2015 aid spending last April.

(Reporting by Lin Taylor @linnytayls, Editing by Katie Nguyen. Please credit the Thomson Reuters Foundation, the charitable arm of Thomson Reuters that covers humanitarian issues, conflicts, global land rights, modern slavery and human trafficking, women's rights, and climate change. Visit http://news.trust.org to see more stories)

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