Sunday, 6 September 2015

Amnesty International: Six Gulf countries have offered zero resettlement places to Syrian refugees



As refugees from Syria stream into Europe, the Gulf Arab financial and diplomatic sponsors of Syria's rebel groups have taken in zero refugees from the conflict.


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."!

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.