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‘Even Israel debated taking refugees,’ say critics in Arab world


Faced with mounting criticism over their refusal to accept refugees, the Gulf monarchies have launched a campaign to combat the claims, saying that they have donated millions and accepted vast numbers of Syrians as migrants.

Photos of 3-year-old Aylan Kurdi, the young Syrian boy who drowned while fleeing the country with his family, have sparked rage within the Arab world, mainly against the rich Gulf states. The criticism has mainly surrounded the fact that the rich Gulf states have yet to take in refugees, while much smaller and weaker Arab states like Jordan and Lebanon have taken the brunt of the crises.

On the backdrop of increasing criticism, the Gulf States have launched a massive PR campaign across a spectrum of media outlets in an attempt to quash claims of refugee denial.

Saudi journalist Tariq Alhomayed was one of the many Saudi’s who took the anti-Gulf state rhetoric very personally, writing an emotional article which attempted to dispute the criticism, and even mentioned the debate within Israel surrounding the Syrian refugees: “We must be truthful and clear: its shameful that Israel has debated accepting refugees while others incite against the Gulf states, instead of confronting the merchants of the false ‘opposition’.”

He continued to state that, “It is shameful for the Islamic organizations, mainly the Muslim Brotherhood, and those who seek to take ownership of Arabism. It’s a shame to Iran and her proxies that Israeli is debating the option of taking refugees while Assad murders Syrians with chemical weapons, barrel bombs, and with Iranian money.”

Saudi Arabia’s ambassador in Italy, Dr Rayed Khalid A. Krimly, said this week that, “30 to 40 percent of all of Saudi Arabia’s residents are not Saudis.” Krimly continued to say that, “This figure includes a million and a half Yemenis, and more than 500,000 Syrians.” According to him, since the outbreak of the Syrian and Yemeni crises, Saudi Arabia has granted the two peoples the right to receive resident status in the kingdom, forgoing the normal authorizations and conditions.

“We haven’t called the migrants refugees because they have received the residency permits legally, which allows them to enjoy all the education, health, residency, and labor benefits,” the Saudi ambassador said, and reiterated that his country was the largest contributor to Syria and Yemen’s humanitarian aid programs. The Gulf owned and London based Al-Hayat paper reported Thursday that, “Saudi Arabia is host to 500,000 Syrian refugees, and its schools are open to about 100,000 Syrians.”

According to an official in the Saudi Foreign Ministry, since the beginning of the Syrian crises, the kingdom has taken in no less than 2.5 million Syrians, insisting that they were not treated as refugees or stuffed into refugee camps, but were in fact granted freedom of movement – in order to preserve their honor.

The UAE was quick to follow the Saudi example, with a government official telling CNN in Arabic that no less than 100,000 Syrian refugees had made their way to the Emirates since 2011, where they were granted temporary residency permits. This figure would put the number of Syrians in the Gulf country at 250,000.


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