Saudi Arabia accepted precisely 8 Syrian refugee applications between 2011 and 2014

by Elhanan Miller

According to statistics published by Amnesty International, while Germany and Sweden each received roughly 50,000 asylum requests between 2011 and 2014 (a number similar to the rest of the EU combined), the number of Syrian applications to the richest Arab states comprising the Gulf Cooperation Council (GCC) in the same time frame were laughable. Statistics available on the website of the UN refugee agency show that Saudi Arabia received a grand total of 12 Syrian applications, of which four were recognized; Oman received four applications and recognized none; Kuwait received 12 and recognized seven; Bahrain received three and rejected them all; the United Arab Emirates received 23 applications, of which it recognized nine; and Qatar received seven applications, recognizing all but one.

Elhanan Miller

Looking at the GCC, the lack of any resettlement contribution is shocking,” read a 2014 report by Amnesty International titled “Left Out in the Cold: Syrian Refugees Abandoned by the International Community.”

The six GCC countries have offered 0 resettlement places to Syrian refugees,” the report continued. “GCC countries — due to their geographical proximity, historical links with Syria and relative integration potential (due to common language and religion) — should make a significant conSyria’s immediate neighbors Turkey, Jordan and Lebanon have borne the brunt of the refugee influx, taking in 95 percent of the refugees, or some 4 million people. But as scores of refugees risk their lives crossing the Mediterranean on rickety boats, more and more observers are wondering what prevents wealthy Arab countries from welcoming more refugees, who could arrive more easily over land.

The inaction by Arab state actors was recently highlighted by the initiative of Egyptian billionaire Naguib Sawiris, who has offered to buy a Mediterranean island to house the Syrian refugees.

Meanwhile, Kuwaiti political commentator Fahd al-Shelaimi offered a number of explanations for his country’s rejection of Syria’s refugees.

The cost of living in Kuwait and the Gulf, he reasoned in an interview with France 24 Arabic, is too expensive for Syrian refugees. “At the end of the day, you can’t accept people from a different environment, from a different place. They have emotional problems and trauma; you can’t just take them into your society.”

Those comments sparked outrage on Arab social media. “The Kuwaiti Fahd al-Shelaimi has forgotten that Kuwaitis and their leaders were once forced into refuge,” wrote one Facebook commentator, referring to the occupation of Kuwait by Iraqi leader Saddam Hussein in 1990. “Remember your past, and identify with those experiencing the same tragedy.”

Other talkbacks were less polite. “God curse the day when you discovered oil, you son of a bitch,” wrote Facebook commentator Khaled Ardah, “only to condescend to the people of Syria.”

If caught entering certain Gulf states illegally, Syrian citizens risk being deported back to Syria, he noted.

Times of Israel, September 6, 2015

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