After weeks of international condemnation and criticism over the country’s disinterest in accepting refugees flooding Europe, Saudi Arabia has issued a rebuttal.
Saudi Arabia has received around 2.5 million Syrians since the start of the conflict in their country, Saudi news website Al Arabiya reported, citing an official source in the Saudi Ministry of Foreign Affairs.
Elaborating on why the Saudi government doesn’t refer to these people as refugees, the unnamed source added the Gulf state wants to “ensure their dignity and safety” – that’s why they offer them visas instead of temporary shelters.
Wealthy Gulf nations came under increased scrutiny after European countries volunteered to take in asylum-seekers fleeing conflicts in the Middle East. Saudi Arabia, in particular, was slammed for taking in “zero refugees.”
But the kingdom recently refuted all accusations, saying reports about its response to the Syrian refugee crisis are “false and misleading,” and it has in fact given residency to 100,000 Syrian refugees, both before and after the civil war in their homeland.
The reason the world can’t see that Saudi Arabia is also helping these people is because they don’t like to “to show off or brag in the media,” an anonymous Saudi government official told the Guardian,” adding the country “made it a point not to deal with them as refugees.”
“With that came the right to free education, healthcare and employment according to a royal decree in 2012 that also states that Syrian students visiting the kingdom be admitted in public schools,” the official added.
Despite the aforementioned contributions claimed by Saudi Arabia, the fact that no Gulf country has signed the United Nations Convention on Refugees – which sets out regional standards for migrants – will continue to attract criticism.
Hundreds of thousands of people are fleeing the Middle East to find sanctuary in Europe and neighboring countries. Not all of them can be provided jobs right away. What they need, meanwhile, is refuge, a place to call home – something Saudi Arabia has still not offered.