As European countries stagger under the influx of Syrian refugees, countries far closer to the war-torn country have come under fire for refusing to help. The Deputy Minister for Multilateral Relations claims that oil-rich Saudi Arabia has in fact taken in 2.5 million Syrian refugees since 2011. This bold claim is nearly impossible to verify, although other Saudi government sources have reported the same to the U.N.
However with a total population of only about 28 million, it is doubtful Saudi Arabia could host 2.5 million refugees in such a short time, without the world being all too aware.
“We have welcomed 2.5 million Syrians – not as refugees, but as residents,” said Deputy Minister Turki bin Mohamed bin Saud Alkabeer. “They are allowed to have education, they are allowed to have access to work and to medical care. No other country has done what we have done,” he said, noting that there are currently 100,000 Syrian students enrolled in Saudi schools.
These bold claims come only after allegations that Saudi Arabia and other Gulf countires have been unwilling to take in refugees. According to bin Saud Alkabeer, “We never talked about it because we consider them as a brother. When you do something for your brother, you don’t announce it.”
Other reports have claimed 500,000 refuges are being housed by Saudi Arabia. Still others claimed 100,000 or 50,000.
Bin Saud Alkabeer added that the country’s borders remain open to Syrians. “We never stop any Syrians coming to us.”
The Saudi Press Agency (SPA) responded to criticism on Friday, saying, “Saudi Arabia was keen to not deal with them as refugees, or to put them in refugee camps, to preserve their dignity and safety, and gave them complete freedom of movement.”
The Gulf countries claim to have provided $700 million in humanitarian aid to refugees, but other sources maintain that these countries have refused to admit even a single refugee. Without U.N. verification, the truth is almost impossible to know.