While Saudi Arabia houses around 500,000 Syrians who fled since the civil war began – as paid labor, not refugees – the fact that it’s not taking in any asylum-seekers like Germany or Iceland has prompted international criticism over the past few weeks.
Now, as a response to the backlash accusing the Gulf kingdom of indifference, the Saudi government has offered to build 200 mosques to accommodate nearly 100 Syrian refugees who arrived last weekend.
Ad-Diyar, an Arabic-language Lebanese daily newspaper, first reported the offer, citing a request by a committee of sheikhs which is still awaiting the approval of German authorities. The report also stated Saudi Arabia has vowed to donate at least $200 million to the refugee crisis. Whether this money will be spent to build the mosques was not clarified.
As generous as the offer might sound, building mosques to accommodate refugees might not be a wise option.
If there is one thing these people who have risked their lives while trying to reach Europe need right now, is someplace to call home. Shelters are already available for them in the form of makeshift tents and even abandoned buildings. However, it’s all temporary.
Spending millions of dollars to accommodate thousands in mosques – which are supposed to be places of worship, not homes – would definitely provide them with a living space, but again, it would be a temporary refuge.
Also, mass housing in mosques would only further isolate Muslim refugees from the host society. It’s therefore far better to spend the same amount of money to build houses for refugees.
Perhaps Saudi Arabia can take a page out of a Germany's response, which includes the lodging and renting website Refugees Welcome. The Berlin-based website has helped 26 people find homes through its services.
Read More: Saudi Arabia Is Turning Its Back On Refugees