Middle East (MNN) — As North America, Europe, and poorer countries in the Middle East take in refugees, the Gulf states (Kuwait, Bahrain, Iraq, Oman, Qatar, Saudi Arabia, and the United Arab Emirates) refuse to do the same.
It can’t be a matter of capacity. The Gulf states have more room than some countries welcoming in refugees. So what is it?
“There’s a lot of speculation as to why it could be. Perhaps they might agree with the Assad regime, or don’t feel the need to get involved, or are concerned about their own economic [situation],” said Emily Fuentes with Open Doors USA.
Rejection of refugees by the Gulf states places a greater burden of housing them upon surrounding countries.
“We’re seeing right now countries like Jordan and Lebanon, which are very small countries, taking in population amounts that are far exceeding their capacity, especially in Lebanon. Essentially a fourth of their population are now refugees from Syria and Iraq,” says Fuentes.
It should be noted the Gulf states have donated millions of dollars to the United Nations for relief aid, which still comes up short behind the United States. But this money doesn’t do much else besides keep people in refugee camps.
“One of the biggest things we’re hearing from people is…’they’re housed and cared for’ in refugee camps,” says Fuentes. Most are “still in tents and have been living like this for a year and a half. It’s no way for someone to live permanently.”
Refugee camps are not permanent solutions
Tents offer little protection against the extreme weather of the Middle East. Fuentes saw these conditions first hand when she visited Iraq in September.
“People were living in 12 x 8 foot trailers, and even smaller, in most cases. It would be [a ratio of] five families to one of these trailers. So beds were stacked on top of each other, barely any room to move. They’d have a stove outside that they’d share with four of their neighbors. And that was the VIP refugee condition–the best scenario,” explains Fuentes.
Open Doors is trying to help refugees by providing basic needs such as shelter, medical and hygiene products in the camps. The ministry also supplies food packs, which feeds a family for a month.
In addition, to immediate, life-sustaining help, Open Doors is thinking long-term. “We’re trying to provide micro-loans so people can get out of the refugee camps and support themselves in a safe part of Iraq by starting their own business,” says Fuentes.
Not everyone is able to relocate in Iraq, but having open doors into the Gulf states would provide more opportunities for refugees to resettle.
Please be praying for the safety of the refugees, for shelter, and the work of the Gospel in their lives. Also pray that more countries will open their borders to refugees.
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