The rule of temporary refuge forms the cornerstone of states’ response in cases of large-scale influx of refugees. In the context of civilians fleeing armed conflict, this legal rule imposes a positive obligation on all states to admit and not to return anyone to a situation of risk to life, and to provide basic rights commensurate with human dignity. Also implicit in the rule is the expectation of shared responsibility for large numbers of refugees and international cooperation towards durable solutions. This article examines the customary international law of temporary refuge (also known as temporary protection) in relation to the Syrian conflict. It discusses implementation of the rule in the practices of three neighbouring countries to Syria, and in the EU. It finds Turkey, Lebanon and Jordan to have engaged in practices consistent with the rule of temporary refuge. However, the EU decided not to use the Temporary Protection Directive; instead individual member states have relied on the Refugee Convention and EU law, combined with various other measures not pertinent to temporary protection. It concludes that shared responsibility is the linchpin of temporary refuge. Absent this keystone, the rule of temporary refuge is likely to continue being implemented primarily in a regional context by countries the nearest to the country affected by conflict, as seen in the case of Syria.