The oil-rich Arab Gulf states have high per capita incomes, need labor and share a common language and culture with Syrians, making them in the eyes of many an ideal location for refugees fleeing conflict in Syria.
Yet, while Turkey, Jordan, Iraq, Lebanon and Egypt have taken in around 5 million refugees, and boatloads of the destitute are making their way to Europe, the Gulf states have taken only a few hundred refugees, according to data from the UN's refugee agency (UNHCR).
To date, the Gulf states have taken almost no substantial amount of Syrian refugees since the start of the Syrian civil war, a civil war they helped ferment by supporting the most extreme and radical opposition groups to the Assad regime like Al Nusra and ISIS.
In a 2016 interview, Michael Møller, Director-General of the United Nations Office at GenevaMøller, who spent more than 35 years at the UN, including working as Secretary-General Ban Ki Moon’s representative, slammed the Gulf countries for not taking a single Syrian refugee:
"There’s absolutely no reason why places like Canada and the United States, Australia, Argentina, Mexico, Brazil, even Asian countries who we helped not that long ago, shouldn’t take many more of these people. Not to speak about the countries in the Gulf who haven’t taken a single one.”
Amnesty International paints an equally damning picture, arguing that 4 million refugees from Syria, or 95% of the total number of those who fled the country as a result of the conflict, are in just five states: Turkey, Lebanon, Jordan, Iraq, Egypt and Germany.
Turkey and Lebanon bears the brunt of the load – Turkey with almost 3 million and Lebanon took over a million Syrian refugees who now constitute over a quarter of the country’s population. On the other hand, says a report by Amnesty International, “the six Gulf countries – Qatar, United Arab Emirates, Saudi Arabia, Kuwait and Bahrain – have offered zero resettlement places to Syrian refugees” .
Now Gulf States and particularly Saudi Arabia's propaganda claim that they are really welcoming Syrian refugees into their country but that the western media reports that they don't.
In part, the low numbers are due to a technicality, as the Gulf states are non-signatories to the 1951 UN Refugee Convention, the governing international convention defining refugees and their rights.
To be sure, there are hundreds of thousands of Syrians in the Gulf, just not as "refugees." The Saudis refer them as "Arab brothers and sisters in distress."
But they were only allowed to enter the gulf states because they were needed as workers, and almost any Syrian refugee who tried to seek asylum in those countries was turned down.
This is what Peter Bouckaert, the Emergency Director at "Human Rights Watch" had to say about that:
"Saudi Arabia has offered no evidence to support its claims that it has ‘welcomed’ so many Syrians, and it appears that figure consists mostly of Syrians who have passed through Saudi Arabia, however briefly. Counting the number of Syrians that have entered and exited Saudi Arabia does not amount to taking in refugees from Syria.”
Led by the Saudis and Qatar, the Gulf states push the line that the refugee crisis is the outcome of Western inaction and the Syrian regime's brutality, even as they throw billions of dollars in supplies and weaponry into the Syrian jihadist cauldron to oust Assad at all costs.
So while the media is constantly obsessed with every European country that DARES to either restrict or not welcome Syrian refugees or migrants in general, the rich and powerful Gulf States, those that bear direct responsibility for the current situation in Syria by pumping money into the various terrorist organizations and rebel groups in Syria, get a free pass whenever it comes to Syrian refugees.