The big Gulf oil kingdoms refuse to take any Syrian refugees, even though they are much closer to the war zone than Europe, and passage to the Gulf would be far less hazardous than risking death in overcrowded boats on the Mediterranean.
It is especially galling because the rich Gulf governments have more than enough resources to pitch in. Saudi Arabia, for example, has a city of 100,000 air-conditioned tents standing empty, with capacity to hold 3 million people.
“The 20 square km tent city of Mina is used for five days each year by Hajj pilgrims, and deserted for the rest of the time,” reports the TeleSUR news network. “The neatly arranged campsite is made up of eight-by-eight meter fire-proof tents, with kitchen and bathroom facilities.”
The Hajj is the ritual Islamic pilgrimage to Mecca, due to begin in late September. This year’s event is supposed to proceed on schedule despite the recent collapse of a crane at the Grand Mosque, which killed 107 people. The Hajj is said to draw some 2 million participants each year.
TeleSUR notes that “no Gulf country has signed the U.N. Convention on Refugees, an accord standardizing the level of treatment of people fleeing to new countries.” No refugees have been accepted by Saudi Arabia, Kuwait, Qatar, Bahrain, or the United Arab Emirates.
The Saudi government claims to be quietly doing something-or-other for the refugees, while making “a point not to deal with them as refugees,” because they do not want to “show off or brag in the media,” according to a Saudi official. So far these nameless refugees mysteriously housed in an unknown quarter of the Kingdom have not seen fit to publicly express their gratitude for Saudi generosity.