The UAE is going to start taking in Syrian refugees

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The Emirates will welcome the refugees over the next five years.

In a major shift, the UAE has just announced that it will take in 15,000 Syrian refugees over the next five years. Currently around 250,000 Syrians live in the UAE, but none of them have refugee status.

Reem Al Hashemi, minister of state for international cooperation was speaking at a UN refugee summit when she announced the plan, saying “we must all do our part”.

“Ultimately, we must offer a source of hope for displaced persons that allows them to maintain dignity, return home, reintegrate themselves into their societies, and rebuild their countries and their lives,” she explained.

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This makes the UAE the first GCC country to announce a major plan to allow Syrians asylum as refugees (rather than residents). Other countries that haven’t accepted any Syrian refugees yet are Japan, Singapore and South Korea.

Almost five million Syrians have registered or are awaiting registration with the United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees since the Syrian conflict started.

Al Hashemi didn’t give exact plans about how the refugees will be housed and how much support they will be given, but she did say this: “The UAE believes that we must not just meet the basic needs of refugees, but we also maintain their dignity and offer hope for their future”.

“Five years ago, before the Syrian crisis erupted, 115,000 Syrians lived and worked in the UAE, joining more than 200 different nationalities and ethnicities that make up the tapestry of our diverse society and whose active and significant contributions are a clear rebuttal to the global wave of xenophobia. Since then, we have welcomed more than 123,000 Syrians,” she added.

“The number of refugees and displaced persons is the largest in modern history. This crisis is being driven by a series of interlinked conflicts, fueled by extremism that crosses borders and transcends geographies.”

Al Hashemi, who is also the Director-General of Expo 2020, said people must “consider both near-term urgency and the tools for longer-term empowerment” when looking at the refugee crisis.

How many Syrian refugees have other countries officially taken in?

Here’s the approximate number of registered or resettled refugees in some other countries around the world (this is different to the number of Syrians in a country). Note: this isn’t an exhaustive list, just a sample.

Turkey: 2.7 million

Lebanon: 1.048 million 

Jordan: 657,422

Iraq: 249,395

Germany: 600,000

Sweden: 64,700

Greece: 54,574

Canada: 33,147

United Kingdom: 5,102

Libya: 26,672

United States: 7,123

Australia: 4,500

Finland: 1,127

“The UAE is honoured to have contributed more than one per cent of its Gross National Income annually to foreign aid for the last three years, putting us among the top donors globally, and we are proud to be increasing our humanitarian financing. Over the last five years, the UAE has provided more than US$750 million (Dhs2.75 billion) to support Syrian refugees, mainly in neighbouring countries that are facing considerable pressure.”

The UAE has set up and funds refugee camps in Northern Iraq, Jordan and Greece. In fact, just this month the Emirates Red Crescent Society set up two refugee camps in Greece. What happens at these camps? Well, as Hashemi explained, “we provide the basic life-saving support such as shelter, food, basic health, water, and sanitation.

“We are also looking to address often neglected services like rehabilitation, education in emergencies, cash for food and work, vocational training, and care for those with mental illnesses.”

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Image: Getty