The Arab world’s wealthiest nations are doing next to nothing for Syria’s refugees

The "six Gulf countries -- Qatar, UAE, Saudi Arabia, Kuwait, Oman and Bahrain -- have offered zero resettlement places to Syrian refugees.

Migrants hold up a migrant man as a sign of protest against the closure of Keleti Railway Station in Budapest, Hungary, 02 September 2015. (EPA/ZOLTAN BALOGH)

The world has been transfixed in recent weeks by the unfolding refugee crisis in Europe, an influx of migrants unprecedented since World War II. Their plight was chillingly highlighted on Wednesday in the image of a drowned Syrian toddler, his lifeless body lying alone on a Turkish beach.

A fair amount of attention has fallen on the failure of many Western governments to adequately address the burden on Syria’s neighboring countries, which are struggling to host the brunt of the roughly 4 million Syrians forced out of the country by its civil war.

Some European countries have been criticized for offering sanctuary only to a small number of refugees, or for discriminating between Muslims and Christians. There’s also been a good deal of continental hand-wringing over the general dysfunction of Europe’s systems for migration and asylum.

Less ire, though, has been directed at another set of stakeholders who almost certainly should be doing more: Saudi Arabia and the wealthy Arab states along the Persian Gulf.

As Amnesty International recently pointed out, the “six Gulf countries — Qatar, United Arab Emirates, Saudi Arabia, Kuwait, Oman and Bahrain — have offered zero resettlement places to Syrian refugees.” This claim was echoed by Kenneth Roth, executive director of Human Rights Watch, on Twitter:

Or see this map tweeted by Luay Al Khatteeb, a nonresident fellow at the Brookings Institution, showing the numbers accommodated by Syria’s overwhelmed neighbors in comparison to the oil-rich states further south:

That’s a shocking figure, given these countries’ relative proximity to Syria, as well as the incredible resources at their disposal. As Sultan Sooud al-Qassemi, a Dubai-based political commentator, observes, these countries include some of the Arab world’s largest military budgets, its highest standards of living, as well as a lengthy history — especially in the case of the United Arab Emirates — of welcoming immigrants from other Arab nations and turning them into citizens.

Moreover, these countries aren’t totally innocent bystanders. To varying degrees, elements within Saudi Arabia, Qatar, the U.A.E. and Kuwait have invested in the Syrian conflict, playing a conspicuous role in funding and arming a constellation of rebel and Islamist factions fighting the regime of Syrian President Bashar al-Assad.

None of these countries are signatories of the United Nations’ 1951 Refugee Convention, which defines what a refugee is and lays out their rights, as well as the obligations of states to safeguard them. For a Syrian to enter these countries, they would have to apply for a visa, which, in the current circumstances, is rarely granted. According to the BBC, the only Arab countries where a Syrian can travel without a visa are Algeria, Mauritania, Sudan and Yemen — hardly choice or practical destinations.

Like European countries, Saudi Arabia and its neighbors also have fears over new arrivals taking jobs from citizens, and may also invoke concerns about security and terrorism. But the current gulf aid outlay for Syrian refugees, which amounts to collective donations under $1 billion (the United States has given four times that sum), seems short — and is made all the more galling when you consider the vast sums Saudi Arabia and the U.A.E. poured into this year’s war effort in Yemen, an intervention some consider a strategic blunder.

As Bobby Ghosh, managing editor of the news site Quartz, points out, the gulf states in theory have a far greater ability to deal with large numbers of arrivals than Syria’s more immediate and poorer neighbors, Lebanon and Jordan:

The region has the capacity to quickly build housing for the refugees. The giant construction companies that have built the gleaming towers of Dubai, Abu Dhabi, and Riyadh should be contracted to create shelters for the influx. Saudi Arabia has plenty of expertise at managing large numbers of arrivals: It receives an annual surge of millions of Hajj pilgrims to Mecca. There’s no reason all this knowhow can’t be put to humanitarian use.

No reason other than either indifference or a total lack of political will. In social media, many are calling for action. The Arabic hashtag #Welcoming_Syria’s_refugees_is_a_Gulf_duty was tweeted more than 33,000 times in the past week, according to the BBC.

“The Gulf must realize that now is the time to change their policy regarding accepting refugees from the Syria crisis,” writes the columnist Qassemi. “It is the moral, ethical and responsible step to take.”

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Source: The Washington Post

21 Responses to The Arab world’s wealthiest nations are doing next to nothing for Syria’s refugees

  1. somaganjika September 4, 2015 at 9:58 pm

    I was thinking of a profitable and politically correct way to accept the invaders into Europe. Obviously they must be processed through immigration or else you’ll encounter the same problem why they are leaving Syria. It must be organized. Out of every refugee family, all able bodied men and women who aren’t caring for children must join the military. They must go through training. They must be trained to learn the native language, practice native culture, and be tested on ethics and morals. They must go through physical training. They must serve in the military, the military that builds and organizes the refugee camps. This will give them a sense of worth and dignity. It will also help them grow into native culture and eventually be accepted by the natives.

  2. Henry Sueraz September 4, 2015 at 9:58 pm

    Sunni vs Shia.

    Most of the refugees were initially leaving due to religious persecution (Alawis, Shia Muslims) from Sunni extremists (Daesh). They likely wouldn’t even think about setting in Sunni states, nor would most welcome them. Things might start to change as it is now just people fleeing the conflict. Though, even then, they are Hannafi Sunni, while the wealthy states are Hanbali, Shafi’i, or Wahhabi (in short, still a religious difference).

  3. Ghandi September 4, 2015 at 10:07 pm

    For them to take in refugees and for the countries to lure them in many massive changes need to take place. First of all these countries don’t give many fucks about the working conditions of people. You may have heard the stories from building sites, inhumane conditions etc. It is not desirable for refugees to flee their country and become essentially slaves in another country. Secondly the hierarchy thing is very much persistently present. It doesn’t apply to everybody, but as a rule of thumb – if you aren’t a Saudi or an Emirate you’re going to be treated like a second class citizen. People know this. The national pride and pack mentality is strong in these countries. They have massive problems of their own and cater much towards the rich. As a refugee, why go to a country with shit laws, wages and rights for blue collar work, when there are way more socialist European countries that cater to all classes.

  4. Terence Jones September 4, 2015 at 10:10 pm

    Okay, I tend to agree with all of the finger pointing in this thread, but can I outline the fact that Oman – while not actually being helpful in this situation – should not be grouped with the likes of Saudi and Qatar. It is not “warmongering”, “as backwards as a county can get”, “not solving problems, only making them” or even an unpleasant place to live (even for the poor!). Of course, as far as the thread title goes, that’s still totally valid. Obviously.

    That said, I’m surprised the Sultan isn’t doing more – he’s generally considered to be one of the better rulers in the world (rare with an absolute monarchy).

  5. NoTimeToExplainRun September 4, 2015 at 11:34 pm

    The fact that an Emirati commentator, Sultan al-Qassimi, is being allowed to talk about this indicates that Gulf governments are trying to convince their people that this is something they should do. If the UAE government didn’t like the idea, Mr. Sultan would never have been allowed to tweet what he did and get away with it.

    I lived there for several years, and Emiratis, as well as most Gulf Arabs, are extremely insecure about their positions in their countries, with the UAE being an extreme example of 88% foreigners and only about 12% Emiratis. Their elite status can also confer a grotesque arrogance: unless you’re from the right tribe or lineage, you don’t deserve the fruits of oil money.

    The way GCC governments operate politically is pretty immature: they let someone like Mr. Sultan float an idea in public and wait to see if there’s a massive backlash. If there isn’t, they go through with it; if not, they junk it, and people like Mr. Sultan take the blame.

  6. Paul September 4, 2015 at 11:35 pm

    Its funny that you mention kuwait, of course kuwait cant take anyone in. Its in almost a !@#$%^ state of war; almost every other week there is a bombing, you cant enter the mosque unless its by its main entrance and that entrance is guarded by cops.

    On the other hand Kuwait did donate a lot to help those in need up to a point it got low on money. Its funny seeing a country get low on money because it donated a lot.

  7. Lonnie Smith September 4, 2015 at 11:36 pm

    Why would any rational person support taking in third worlders? Automation over the next 30 years will annihilate almost all low-skill blue collar jobs, and there will be next to nothing for the migrants (and their millions of children) to do. Are people assuming that, like in times past, jobs are going to just keep matching the rising population? The pattern is about to reverse, and we’re going to be in deep trouble when it does.

    Also, I’m guessing the reason the Arab countries aren’t doing anything is because it doesn’t make sense to do anything. There is only loss, and no gain.

  8. Shar September 4, 2015 at 11:37 pm

    Qatar doesn’t even do this with their own people. They treat their own lower class like slaves. Even if they offered some sort of resettlement, it wouldn’t be that much better than Syria – and that’s the fucked up truth.

  9. SureAviator September 4, 2015 at 11:38 pm

    I’d like to say one thing, do you see the UK/French/German/US government actually calling them out on it? No, why? Because those Arabs have them by the balls (through oil and various investments in their respective nations).

    The US sells them arms worth billions, the French penned a deal for Dassault Rafales for $7 billion a month ago…these deals are essentially to ensure that these European countries don’t criticise them, don’t try to upset the status quo. I mean, how can they? You have wealthy Arab consortiums owning several big European companies, you control the oil and you’ve just handed them several billions of dollars.

  10. UponFurtherReview September 4, 2015 at 11:45 pm

    They’re too busy funding sectarian intolerance and chaos, these nations found a way out to avoid fighting ISIS seriously by fighting Houthi rebels which didn’t hurt anyone outside of Yemen while ISIS was beheading their way in two countries.

    The Houthis was there way out and it fit in with their sectarian agenda, fighting ISIS would cause them great harm at home because a lot of Gulf sunnis support ISIS. Instead of dealing with a problem, they create more sectarian tension and create this fantasy which is a holy war.

    They’re nothing but a tumor which will only be cured by chemo and chemo being nuclear…you get the drift.

  11. zemprophenom September 4, 2015 at 11:46 pm

    Notice all of these countries have tyrants in their government ruling. As a citizen of Bahrain, its really sad that our country doesn’t accept the refugees. Man, fuck the ruling family of all these countries, those tyrants don’t care about anything but their money. In Bahrain, multiple revolts happened against the government for democracy, but all failed, including the most recent one in 2011.

  12. Tom September 4, 2015 at 11:47 pm

    The GCC is all about keeping their version of Islam intact.


    they don’t know which people belong to which group and they would rather watch people die than have them in their country and risk having people from other factions or tied with their enemies.
    This is the real reason. UAE doesn’t want Muslim brotherhood and people tied to it. Qatar is okay with ISIS and don’t want opposing loyalists in their country.

    The list goes on but I’ll stop before I get put on a list.


  13. tom cruise September 4, 2015 at 11:47 pm

    The Gulf countries have a very strict criteria when admitting any other Arabs to the GCC countries. For example, for a South Asian, India, Pakistani Sri Lanka, Visa cost about 5/6 thousand dirhams. For a Syrian or Iraqi, Yemen, it’s about 25000 thousand for a normal work permit, and that’s just the minimum. Even then it’s very hard for other Arab nationalities to gain entry. It’s about political pressure, the Shia/muslim conflict. And that’s not even including the bribery you sometimes need to give.Saudi and Kuwait are making it hard to enter the countries anyway, unless it’s very unskilled labour or domestic help. The Palestinians you see here have been established here for a very long time, even for them it’s still a problem. If you’re a shia, trying to enter Saudi or Dubai forget it. And trying to get a tourist visit if you’re from Iran is near impossible. While Dubai needs economic migrants to survive, other oil rich countries don’t need so much, unless it’s for construction. They don’t have to worry about pressure from their citizens either, these dictorship Muslim countries are not responsible to anyone. No electorate, no votes, no responsibility

  14. Fizzyjizzz September 4, 2015 at 11:50 pm

    The main reasons why most of the GCC countries aren’t helping is because of the recent oil crisis. Speaking specifically for Oman, the economy went down by around 58%. The sultan of Oman, Sultan Qaboos, almost died. The fact that he survived was a godsend for Oman. People were celebrating for weeks. And Oman is helping Alot. There’s a war going on Yemen. The hospitals of Oman are filled with Yemeni people. My dad works at the Royal hospital so I know that for sure. And all of this free of charge. I don’t know what the other countries are doing for certain, but I’m sure it’s along the same lines.

  15. webby686 September 4, 2015 at 11:51 pm

    HEY USA – Lets keep being a pawn in the world of feelings and being used up like we are some bottomless well.

    People die every single day and have done so since the beginning of life. You will die and the next day this same process will repeat itself. You will be gone and nothing you thought about or said will matter. Everyone you know is facing the same fate.

    Your caring doesn’t change anything for those people that won’t fight for themselves. All these videos of hundreds of people being told to lie down on the ground and then shot. None of these people fight back or try to run. None of the RICH surrounding countries care to help or stop any murder and persecution.

    Instead of looking within AGAIN, lets get our house cleaned up first . Then lets go destroy militant and terrorist Islam.
    If we don’t , we won’t have a Country left.

  16. idowhatidoforme September 4, 2015 at 11:52 pm

    I am an Atheist and we do not have meetings or agree about much really. Some anti Atheists will point at other Atheists and claim hey you are like this other Atheist and that is never true. For me I am also an Anti Theist, I do not believe religion should be allowed to exist, taught, etc. We should know what religion looks like and we should talk about how ISIS is religious people. On 9/11 15 of the 19 hijackers were Saudi. There is a Saudi conspiracy theory about 9/11. The Saudi connection. Mecca is located in Saudi Arabia. I believe the Saudi Royal family is a different sect of Muslim then their population. In Islam the divide seems to be Suni vs Shiite. I do not believe in God at all, I hate all religion and am anti theist so I basically have zero tolerance for religion itself. No I will not respect your religion or your religious rights I will call you an ignorant fool. Nuke em will not work, I wish it could but we already proved that does not work. Kill em all does not work. There are actually 1.8 Billion Muslims. Who do they hate? Only 6 Million Jewish people in Israel who I also do not care about. I asked people smarter then me why do we do it? The answer seems to be that we can and “should” be the world police because we do not have an enemy at the gates as Americans so we can project our will towards countries that want to influence their borders in a way we do not approve of. As an American tax payer I do not care about Ukraine for example however some Americans want to influence Eastern European politics. I see no net gain and to me it seems like tax payers would only lose money by supporting Ukraine however some people see a way to make money and are selfish or greedy. They hire\bribe politicians to create conflict for military industrial complex gains.

  17. Beop_Jeong September 4, 2015 at 11:53 pm

    Have you ever been to these places? They don’t give a f%ck! They’re selling so much oil, the government is just looking for ways to dump money on its citizens. Meanwhile the companies hire labor from other countries, promising them decent jobs, and then set them up for slave labor. Now that several country’s citizens have become lazy and self-centered, humanity is the least of their cares. And now, take a moment and imagine if somebody finally figures out a way to harness renewable energy to cover all daily human needs. That person would instantly become the enemy of several insanely rich and highly motivated nations!

  18. Sam September 4, 2015 at 11:53 pm

    Ethnic conflict is huge in the Middle East. I can’t say what the exact motivations for ignoring the refugees are, but I can guarantee that religious affiliation (mainly Sunni and Shia) plays a role.

  19. Wilhelm_IV September 4, 2015 at 11:56 pm

    I am shocked by how pessimistic people are that Muslims can integrate into Western Culture. The overwhelming consensus I see on the internet is this is “the end of Europe”, and a “slow victory for Islam”

    Every few decades we fear a different group, assuming that his group can never integrate into society. In America we have thought that it was impossible to assimilate all of the following groups: African Americans, Germans, Irish, Italians, Polish, Jews, Chinese, Indians, Filipino, Catholics. The list goes on and on. With everyone of these groups you see the same thing: the first generation has a hard time assimilating. The second generation makes huge strides, and the third generation is effectively assimilated.

    Why do you all assume Arab Muslims are an exception? I agree: the first generation will find it difficult to integrate. But I don’t think the second generation is doomed to fail, which many of you do. I don’t know if it’s racism, fear of Islam or simply a belief that THIS time is different because there are more immigrants. But I don’t buy it. An Arab baby born into Germany, or Sweden, or UK will most likely end up being a productive member of society.

    I think people neglect how important it will be to have these Arab Muslims enter a society that is more pluralistic, tolerant and democratic. There is a war of ideas in Islam right now between Wahhabism (aka “fundamentalist”) and modern Islam. The war of ideas will take place over many generations, but it is a battle that we MUST win. Over time, these Arab Muslims will learn liberal ideals that slowly filter back towards the Middle East and North Africa. And that is the only way this crisis will end. People look so much at the “pull” of Europe, but disregard the incredible “push” of living in a country like Libya, or Northern Nigeria, or Somalia, or Syria, or the Anbar province. These places truly are hell to live in. If I were living in Somalia right now you can be damn sure I would do everything in my power to move to Europe, or America, or Australia, or South Africa or SOMEWHERE that my life won’t be shit. We act like these people aren’t humans but the truth is they are making rational decisions because the places they come from are so fucked up.

    And the way to fix the situations in Syria, Somalia and Libya isn’t by ignoring them. It isn’t by militarily occupying them. It is by slowly fostering a liberal version of Islam that supports democracy and tolerance. Turkey is the perfect example. We were all terrified of the Ottomans a century ago, now Turkey is an invaluable ally. I was completely against the invasion of Iraq, but 50 years from now I am optimistic Iraq will be a place where Sunnis and Shia want to live.

    PS – I live in Brooklyn, and I am surrounded by Muslims every day. I work with children and have first hand evidence that supports my beliefs. I’m sure some of you will think that makes me biased, but what first hand experiences have you had that make you so sure that YOU are right?

    TL:DR – I think integrating Muslims into modern society is not only feasible, but necessary for our long term goals. I think most arguments against this are based in fear, racism and short-term thinking. Someone prove me wrong.

  20. Suzie September 4, 2015 at 11:56 pm

    Let’s break this down by criticizing Saudi Arabia.

    If Saudi Arabia acted as resolutely as Britain they would be obligated to take in 97 refugees when comparing by population and 60 when comparing by GDP.

    Unless they should act more resolutely because- in the words of a hypothetical conservative politician: “well, they’re also brown mohammedan sand people, right?”

    Here’s the kicker: Syrians fleeing the violence have more in common with the average lilly-white pure and wholesome European Volk than they do the average Saudi.

    All Saudi Arabia has to do is take in 61 or 98 (depending on how you count) refugees and they will have done more than the UK, one of the richest and most powerful nations on earth, has done.
    People bitching about that are fucking stupid.

  21. French-Finger September 4, 2015 at 11:57 pm

    What kind of help should Bahrain offer? We’ve been living on handouts from Saudi Arabia for God knows how long. We have no source of resources like all of the other oil and gas rich countries.
    What sort of jobs would we provide them? We have no industry and those we do have are very limited and already saturated with employees and are downsizing. We have no jobs. Locals waiting for 18 plus years for government accommodation. People working well below minimum wage. When we could offer settlements we did like in the gulf war when we housed Kuwaiti citizens.

    Apart from all of the above bullshit mentioned we’ve been having our own political unrest where the government brings in mercenaries from Pakistan, Afghanistan, India, Jordan, SYRIA, and every other Fucking place to create a more racial advantage that is to the government’s response.

    At the end of it all even if we did house refugees we as a country would be completely Fucking our economy over (more than it is already fucked).

    Bringing in refugees would be a massive error and would completely destroy the country.


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