In what is undoubtedly a kind gesture from the country’s royal family, around $104 million have been donated by Saudi Arabia's King Abdullah to help restore food vouchers for 1.7 million Syrian refugees as the civil war in their country is entering its fourth winter.
United Nations Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon's spokesman expressed his profound gratitude, saying the money will help get food to millions of refugees from Syria as well as South Sudan and Somalia.
However, as generous as the Saudi authorities have – technically always – been towards asylum seekers as far as monetary aid is concerned, the situation on ground has been quite the opposite.
Although the Sunni monarchy of Saudi Arabia has been one of the most ardent backers of the rebels fighting against the Syrian regime, it has also been the least forthcoming when it comes to making resettlement places available to refugees from the embattled country.
The three-year-old civil war in Syria has internally displaced almost 6.5 million people and caused over 3 million to flee to mainly five countries in the region which include Lebanon, Turkey, Jordan, Iraq, and Egypt.
Interestingly, the ever-benevolent Saudi Arabia (along with Qatar and the UK) has refused to let any asylum seekers in – and not just from Syria but from other countries as well.
For instance, the Saudi authorities have deported at least 12,000 people to Somalia since January 2014 without allowing any to make refugee claims – a process known as “Refugee Status Determination.”
It should also be mentioned here that Saudi Arabia has not ratified the 1951 Refugee Convention and does not even have an asylum system. U.N. High Commissioner for Refugees (UNHCR) has a small office in Riyadh but it is not allowed to receive and review refugee claims.
Human rights organizations have been criticizing the conservative Gulf Kingdom for almost five years for not taking refugees in.
However, as we can see, while there have been a lot of generous donations, Saudi Arabia still hasn’t paid any attention towards accommodating refugees coming in from troubled neighbors.