The world has seemingly woken up to the Syrian refugee crisis lately. But this tragic predicament had been snowballing for more than four years. Millions of Syrians fled their homes as the conflict in their country became a war of annihilation between a ruthless regime and multiple armed groups with not even a hint of a solution.
By the summer of 2014, more than 11 million people — nearly half the population of Syria — had either been internally displaced or fled the country altogether. More than four million sought refuge in neighbouring countries, where they were sheltered in refugee camps. Those camps were mostly funded by Gulf countries. The United Nations report has documented all the efforts of the UAE, Saudi Arabia, Kuwait and others to alleviate the suffering of the millions who fled to Lebanon, Jordan and Turkey.
The Gulf policy was to shelter the refugees closer to home to ease their return when the crisis is over. Since the crisis began in 2011, the UAE and other Gulf states have donated billions of dollars to help the Syrians. They did it out of their sense of duty towards their Arab brethren. In addition, hundreds of thousands of Syrians enter their countries without the need to go through the usual visa requirements. They are not being considered refugees. On the contrary, they are being treated as residents with full rights and access to work, schooling and medical care just as other residents.
According to official reports, the UAE has welcomed more than 100,000 Syrians, who joined 140,000 already residing in the country. The UAE was also one of the first countries to respond to the unfolding humanitarian crisis and has provided more than $530 million (almost Dh2 billion) in direct aid. Per capita, the UAE’s contribution to Syrians affected by the crisis is the highest in the world.
It is unfair to question the efforts of the UAE and other Gulf states in responding to the human crisis in Syria.
What Europe is haggling about today is actually 2 per cent of the total number of Syrian refugees.
Gulf states have already taken the responsibility to help the overwhelming majority. They just chose to do it without fanfare.