Editor's note: The following column originally appeared on website of the Gatestone Institute.
While the European Union and its member states totter under an overwhelming influx of refugees from Syria and other collapsing countries in the Middle East, the vastly wealthy Arab nations of Saudi Arabia and the Gulf States are sitting back and watching as Europe takes the toll.
In a December 2014 report from Amnesty International, various facts and figures are set out to show that what is happening with respect to (mainly) Syrian refugees is thoroughly unbalanced internationally, and notably within the Arab world itself. 95% of the (then) 3.8 million refugees fleeing Syria are located in five countries (although since then many have crossed the Mediterranean or gone to Greece from Turkey). With the exception of Turkey, those five countries are among the poorest in the region: Turkey, Lebanon, Jordan, Iraq and Egypt. Here is Amnesty's breakdown of the figures:
- Lebanon hosts 1.1 million refugees registered with UNHCR, which amounts to around 26 per cent of the country's population.
- Jordan hosts 618,615 registered refugees, which amounts to 9.8% of the population.
- Turkey hosts 1.6 million refugees, which amounts to 2.4% of the population.
- Iraq hosts 225,373 registered refugees, which amounts to 0.67% of the population.
- Egypt hosts 142,543 registered refugees, which amounts to 0.17% of the population.
Six countries that speak the same language (admittedly with strong regional variations), that belong to the same ethnic group, that share the same religion and much of the same culture, that are among the wealthiest countries in the world -- not just in the Arab world -- have no room at all for their fellow Arabs.
Amnesty has called for at least 5% of the refugees to be resettled from the main host countries by the end of 2015, with a further 5% to follow by the end of 2016, giving a total of 380,000 people. And, no doubt, as more people flee the war there, as well as the violence in other Arab countries from Libya to Iraq to Yemen, these numbers will swell.
The report ends on a depressing note: the six Arab Gulf countries (Saudi Arabia, Qatar, Oman, the UAE, Kuwait and Bahrain) have offered zero -- repeat: zero -- places for desperate refugees.
Put another way, six countries that speak the same language (admittedly with strong regional variations); that belong to the same ethnic group; that share the same religion and much of the same culture; that are among the wealthiest countries in the world -- not just in the Arab world -- have no room at all for their fellow Arabs.
They are perfectly happy, it seems, to let hundreds of thousands to squeeze into an already saturated Europe, into countries that have not, for the most part, succeeding in assimilating or integrating existing Arab, Turkish, Somali, and other mainly Muslim minorities. The flood of migrants heading not just for Europe but for specific states -- notably Germany and the UK -- has created a massive humanitarian crisis that European countries are finding it difficult to handle. Refugees arrive in some of Europe's poorest states, mainly Greece, Italy and Hungary, but insist that they have a right to head for more prosperous nations, where welfare benefits are higher and healthcare freely available.
Criticism of the Gulf States is growing. Sarah Hashash, Middle East and North Africa press officer at Amnesty International, has "called the Gulf Arab states' behavior 'utterly shameful' and criticized Qatar, Kuwait, Bahrain, Saudi Arabia and the United Arab Emirates for officially taking in zero refugees."
Another NGO official, Oxfam's Syria country director, Daniel Gorevan, has likewise stated that "Gulf countries clearly can and should do an awful lot more." "I'm most indignant over the Arab countries who are rolling in money and who only take very few refugees," Danish Finance Minister Claus Hjort Frederiksen said in an interview at his office in Copenhagen. "Countries like Saudi Arabia. It's completely scandalous."
To continue reading Dr. MacEoin's column for the Gatestone Institute, click here.
Denis MacEoin, Ph.D. is a Seinor Fellow at the Gatestone Institute. A former lecturer in Islamic studies, his academic specializations are Shi‘ism, Shaykhism, Bábism, and the Bahá'í Faith, on all of which he has
written extensively. MacEoin is also a novelist, writing under the pen names Daniel Easterman and Jonathan Aycliffe.