As the Syrian refugee crisis continues with no foreseeable end in sight, multiple nations have taken the opportunity to step up and offer aid, but Saudi Arabia has recently come under fire for their refusal to accept any of these fleeing refugees and with good reason. The European nations are massively overwhelmed with the amount of Syrians that have sought refuge in the countries at great risk to their lives, while the Arab nations are much closer and far less hazardous to reach. However, these refugees know better than to make the attempt, the Arabians have no desire nor intent to accept them.
Saudi Arabia has seen a lot of bad press and criticism lately in this regard and the International Business Times wrote about what the nation had to say in the face of those accusations with King Salman stating that they are “false and misleading.” The facts and numbers stand against the nations though, as Damascus, the capital of Syria, is approximately 620 miles from northern Saudi Arabia, thousands of miles to get to Europe. In fact, none of the six Arab Gulf countries (Saudi Arabia, Qatar, Oman, the UAE, Kuwait and Bahrain) have offered any help.
BBC published an article that shows that the people of the Gulf States do not necessarily agree with their government’s stance on Syrian refugees. In the past week alone, Twitter has seen the Arabic hashtag #Welcoming_Syria’s_refugees_is_a_Gulf_duty in use more than 33,000 times. The Saudi daily Makkah Newspaper published the below cartoon showing a Gulf clothed man as he peeps from a barbed wired door and points to a door with the EU flag upon it, and takes the time to scold the EU.
“Why don’t you let them in, you discourteous people?!”
Saudi Arabia maintains that to date it has settled Syrians in the country, just not as refugees and as such cannot quantify the exact amount. The Syrians allowed to stay have all been admitted under work or tourist visas. One Saudi journalist, Jamal Khashoggi, who is also the general manager of the upcoming Al Arab News Channel wrote in an article that none of the Syrians have been kicked out due to an expired visa and that the Country’s economy cannot sustain settling in these refugees. Saudi Arabia has seen fit to recently offer some assistance to the refugees who have had to flee to Europe though – kind of. Germany has been offered the grand gesture of the construction of 200 mosques in the country, paid for by Saudi Arabia. The act is very telling of the priorities that the country has for these immigrants, that the Islamic faith continues to be practiced, of course, this is dependent on the migrants reaching the European Nations alive.
The fact that Saudi Arabia has a city capable of holding over 3 million people sitting empty has not gone unnoticed though. This city is populated with 100,000 air-conditioned, eight-by-eight meter fire-proof tents, with kitchen and bathroom facilities and stand empty for majority of the year. The tent city of Mina is 20-square kilometers and is occupied for only five days of each year when the Hajj pilgrims take place in late September. The Hajj is the ritual Islamic pilgrimage to Mecca that has about 2 million participants each year. Despite an earlier tragic crane accident that left over 100 dead, it has been announced that Hajj will still take place, and again this is a clear indication of Saudi Arabia’s prioritizing religious ceremonies over practicing religious teachings of humanity.
Unlike EU nations, none of the Arab states have signed the U.N. Convention on Refugees, an accord standardizing the level of treatment of people fleeing to new countries and therefore are under no obligation to take in those in need. Times are getting significantly darker for the refugees, however, as Germany and Austria, after admitting thousands are now enforcing emergency border controls in an effort to stem the flow of refugees. A UN report shows that refugees have reportedly topped 3 million, and approximately half of all Syrians have been displaced from their homeland.
Despite widespread criticism and campaigns, it seems unlikely that the Arab states will change their position on admitting Syrian refugees. Even those persons already living in the states have a hard time, as it is notoriously difficult to gain nationality.
[Photo Courtesy of Ahmet Sik/ Getty Images]