Saudi Arabia says it has taken in about 2.5 million Syrians since the conflict began, its first official response to suggestions that oil-rich Gulf states should do more to address the plight of Syrian refugees.

The official Saudi Press Agency quoted an unnamed official at the Foreign Ministry late Friday saying the kingdom does not consider those taken in as refugees and does not house them in camps "order to ensure their dignity and safety."

It says they are free to move around the country and that several hundreds of thousands who have chosen to stay have been granted residency status, giving them access to work, schools and free medical care.

There were no details on how many of the Syrians remain in the country.