The French Prime Minister has called on the Arab Gulf States to take in Syrian refugees, warning that a “humanitarian disaster” could erupt in the Balkans if Europe is not able to gain control of her borders.
“I’ll say it again, Europe cannot accept all the refugees coming from Syria. That’s why we need a diplomatic, military and political solution in Syria,” Prime Minister Manuel Valls said on Friday evening, according to The Local.
“Every country must play its part; I’m thinking particularly of the Gulf States,” he added.
Of the more than four million Syrians who have fled their country since civil war broke out four years ago, the vast majority have taken refuge in neighbouring countries, either assimilating into local populations or sheltering in refugee camps.
More than two million are now living in Turkey, to the north of Syria; a further million are sheltering in Lebanon to the west, a country approximately the same size as the counties of Cornwall and Devon in south west England combined.
Nearly 700,000 Syrians have made their way into Europe over the last four years, many of those within the last ten months. Europe has also been hard hit by waves of immigration from Afghanistan, Pakistan, Eritrea, Sudan, and Iran this year, while many eastern Europeans have also been making their way to the more prosperous west.
According to the United Nation’s refugee agency, more than 850,000 migrants have crossed from Africa and the Middle East into Europe by boat this year so far, although other organisations put the figure at over a million.
Western European countries are now struggling to cope with the newcomers, forcing many to rethink their migration policies. Germany has warned eastern European asylum seekers that their applications will be automatically rejected while simultaneously promising all those with a Syrian passport automatic asylum – the first batch of 60 failed asylum seekers from the Balkans were deported on Friday to Kosovo.
On the same day, Asa Romson, deputy Prime Minister of Sweden broke down in tears at a press conference while announcing an end to Sweden’s open door asylum policy.
Prime Minister Stefan Lofven told the assembled reporters: “The situation is untenable.
“To put it bluntly, more people will have to seek asylum and get protection in other European countries.”
Sweden has taken in 80,000 asylum seekers in the last two months alone, causing its asylum system to collapse.
Yet more people are on their way, prompting four Balkan countries – Macedonia, Slovenia, Serbia and Croatia to close their borders to all but those from Syria, Iraq and Afghanistan. The decision caused outrage by migrants of other nationalities, seven of whom sewed their mouths shut at the Greek / Macedonian border in protest.
Valls has warned that unless the borders of the EU are properly controlled “we are going to see a humanitarian disaster in the Balkans this winter and Europe is going to close up again.”
Yet despite the turmoil in Europe the wealthy states in the Gulf region to the east of Syria, including the oil-rich Saudi Arabia, Kuwait, Qatar, and the UAE have to date not taken a single Syrian refugee between them.
And despite their wealth, Britain has donated more to ongoing relief efforts than Saudi Arabia, the United Arab Emirates and Qatar combined.
In September, Kuwaiti official Fahad al-Shalami explained that their countries are “too valuable to accept any refugees,”
“Our countries are only fit for workers,” Shalami explained, adding “It’s too costly to relocate [refugees] here.”
But he added that it was for the refugees own good: “Kuwait is too expensive for them anyway, as opposed to Lebanon and Turkey, which are cheap. They are better suited for Syrian refugees,” he said.