Guess How Many Syrian Refugees Have Been Taken in by Rich Gulf Arab States
Austria and Germany have decided to open their borders to tens of thousands of Syrian refugees, thus temporarily easing a crisis for the EU.
But human rights advocates point out there are several countries closer to Syria that could help the situation even more. They are rich, Muslim, and could certainly give a big assist to other countries who are taking in hundreds of thousands of the refugees, by donating money to the cause.
The fabulously wealthy Arab states of the Persian Gulf have, so far, not accepted a single Syrian refugee. You read that right. Qatar, United Arab Emirates, Saudi Arabia, Kuwait, Oman and Bahrain have refused to admit one single Syrian migrant. Combined, they have contributed about $1 billion to the relief effort, compared to America alone which has given more than $4 billion.
So why would Muslim Arabs turn away their brethren?
Gulf states have cited possible security concerns, and worries that Syrians might eventually compete for jobs. But to the Syrians, the answer is simple: they are not welcome.
"Gulf countries have closed their doors in the face of Syrians," Yassir Batal, a Syrian refugee who fled to Germany, told Bloomberg.
The voyage to Europe necessitates a dangerous and often disastrous ending for the refugees. They must pay smugglers exorbitant fees for space on either overcrowded rubber dinghies or unseaworthy vessels, and thousands end up drowning in the Mediterranean Sea.
But the only Arab countries Syrians may enter without a visa are Algeria, Mauritania, Sudan and Yemen.
In theory, Syrians can enter the Gulf states if they have either a work permit or a tourist visa, but the refugees believe that there are unwritten restrictions in place that make it difficult or impossible to obtain a visa in practice, BBC Monitoring reported. Even in the best of conditions, the process of obtaining a visa is costly.
The Gulf states say they aren't open to accepting more refugees because of security concerns. Most Syrian refugees that are in the Gulf states are there because they've overstayed their work visas.
It is virtually impossible to gain citizenship in a Gulf state, and these countries favor hiring unskilled workers from Southeast Asia and the Indian subcontinent, the BBC reported. The Syrians, who are usually fairly well educated, would compete with jobs with Gulf state locals.
Despite these barriers being put in place by Gulf states, there are also reasons why Syrians aren't seeking out refuge in those countries. Although they are escaping the terror of Islamic State militants and a country wrecked by chemical weapons from an ongoing, five-year civil war, Syria was a remarkably free and educated country in its heyday. Syria's capital, Damascus, was once the "playground" in the region, a city where alcohol, Western dress and education were freely available.
The Gulf states, on the other hand, have harsh laws restricting citizens' freedoms to talk, dress, and interact. In Saudi Arabia, for instance, women are not allowed to drive cars. And in Qatar, people can be fined for uncovering their knees, cuddling, or playing a song with "indecent phrases."
And Syrian refugees might tempt young Arabs in those countries to loosen their ties, kick back, and maybe have some fun. Can't have that, can we?
The real reason these Gulf Arab states are not taking in refugees is the same one worrying many politically incorrect Europeans in places like Hungary and Serbia, whose "right-wing" governments are resisting the settling of the refugees: the migrants would change the national character of their nation.
Nearly 90% of residents in those 6 Arab countries are guest workers, mostly from East Asia. They are held, for all intents and purposes, as slaves. Most are indentured servants, unable to leave until their contract is up. They are kept in horrible conditions, sometimes beaten, sometimes worked to death. To add a couple of hundred thousand more foreigners to the mix would make for an incendiary situation.
In short, the Gulf Arabs are terrified that taking in their fair share of refugees would lead to chaos, even revolution. But that doesn't mean they can't open their overstuffed coffers and feed the refugees living in squalor in Turkey, Iraq, Jordan, and Lebanon. The World Food Program just announced that they are forced to cut food rations to one third of Syrian refugees due to lack of funds.
The monarchies of the Gulf states are being exposed as pious hypocrites, preaching that Islam is love while cynically withholding assistance to people in dire need. It's time they got off their thrones and did something useful with their riches.