The Courier-Mail

Gulf states reluctant to accept refugees

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AS HUNDREDS of thousands of Syrian refugees languish in camps or risk their lives to reach Europe, questions are being asked about why wealthy Gulf states have accepted so few.

By the end of last month, more than four million Syrians had fled their country, but very few if any refugees have been officially accepted by the six countries of the Gulf Cooperatio­n Council.

Bahrain, Kuwait, Oman, Qatar, Saudi Arabia and the United Arab Emirates have donated billions to help refugees, but are facing increasing scrutiny for their apparent unwillingn­ess to accept migrants.

Many are asking why, as one of the greatest migration crises of modern times unfolds, are fellow Arab countries, with similar cultural and religious values and a relative proximity compared to Europe, doing little to help resettle people?

Crucially, that criticism is being voiced not just in the West, but within the region itself.

“The Gulf countries have to be ashamed when they see Europe’s doors open to Syrian refugees, while they close before us,” Abu Mohammed, a 30-year-old Syrian refugee now living in Jordan, said.

An influx of Syrian refugees has swamped Europe, with Germany alone expecting 800,000 new asylum applicatio­ns this year and efforts under way to organise the relocation­s of tens of thousands more.

But in the oil-rich Gulf, GCC states have been absent from talk of helping with the refugee crisis.

“Tragically, the cash-rich Gulf countries have not yet issued a statement on the crisis – much less come up with a strategy to help the migrants, who are overwhelmi­ngly Muslim,” Qatar’s Gulf Times wrote in a recent editorial.

Even the distraught father of Aylan Kurdi, the threeyear-old Syrian boy whose body washed ashore in Turkey, said at the funeral of his wife and two children: “I want Arab government­s, not European countries, to see what happened to my children and, because of them, help people.”

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