Today’s episode of “Political Sesame Street” is brought to you by the number zero (“0”), as in the number of Syrian refugees that have been granted asylum by the richest Persian Gulf states.
While the United States and Europe argue over how many Syrian refugees to allow in, the Muslim countries of the Gulf Cooperation Council that include Kuwait, Oman, Qatar, Saudi Arabia, Bahrain, and United Arab Emirates steadfastly refuse to accept any Syrian refugees. Amnesty International USA (AIUSA) tells The Daily Caller News Foundation they have not accepted a single refugee since the armed Syrian conflict erupted years ago.
“The Gulf States have accepted zero refugees registered with the United Nations and administered through the U.N. resettlement program. They have accepted zero,” Geoffrey Mock, the Syrian country coordinator for AIUSA, tellsTheDCNF.
Nadim Houry, the Human Rights Watch deputy director for the Middle East and North Africa, calls it “shameful.”
The reluctance of Muslim countries to accept Syrians also may make it much harder for Americans to accept President Barack Obama’s proposal to resettle 10,000 refugees throughout the United States.
The Gulf states can be a natural new home for many of the Syrians. The Persian Gulf countries are fabulously wealthy from oil revenues, have strong economies, speak the same Arabic language and offer a familiar culture for the displaced Syrians.
A Fox News poll taken after the Paris attacks reports 67% oppose taking in any of the 10,000 Syrian refugees Obama wishes to resettle in the United States. Seventy-seven percent replied that “at least one of those coming through this process will be a terrorist who will succeed in carrying out an attack on U.S. soil.”
A Harris poll taken about a week after the Paris attacks shows that six out of 10 (61%) oppose the president’s plan to accept 10,000 refugees. Going deeper, it shows that 63% fear any Syrian refugee admitted to the U.S. could be connected to terrorism.
Those fears hardened after the Nov. 13 Islamic State attack in Paris that killed 130. Many of the terrorists that night were either French or Belgian citizens.
A Bloomberg Politics post-attack public opinion poll taken Nov. 15 to 17 shows 53% oppose any resettlement of Syrians in the United States, with only 28% supporting the president.
On Nov. 20, the House also voted 289 to 137 to call a pause in the resettlement program until greater security measures are in place to screen the refugees. The vote included 47 Democrats joining Republicans.
Thirty-one governors vow to stop temporarily accepting Syrian refugees into their states. All of the governors are Republican except for one.
Sen. Rand Paul, the Kentucky Republican who is seeking the 2016 Republican presidential nomination, raises the issue in his campaign.
The Gulf states are the “ones actually giving a lot of arms and weapons to radical Islamists. They’re taking zero refugees,” Paul declared in a campaign stop in his home state of Kentucky Nov. 23.
Muslim countries bordering Syria such as Turkey, Jordan, and Lebanon accepted the bulk of the 4.2 million Syrian refugees. Many there live in makeshift overcrowded tent cities operated by the U.N. High Commissioner for Refugees (UNHCR) and its resettlement agency.
Egypt, which accepted 127,000 of the 4.2 million Syrian refugees, also appears to be getting cold feet about accepting more. Egyptian officials are now expelling some refugees, according to Mock. He tells TheDCNF some refugees are on hunger strikes because of depraved conditions.
Turkey, Jordan, and Lebanon have also begun to impose new restrictions on accepting more Syrian refugees.
Despite the worldwide clamor in support of the refugees, funding to help them isn’t available. UNHCR earlier this month reported that globally, governments have contributed only half of the $4.5 billion estimate of the cost of needed support for the refugees.
Like some Americans, the monarchs in the Gulf states appear to be suspicious of accepting Muslims who they fear could have a destabilizing effect on their societies.
Sultan Sooud al-Qassemi of Oman wrote last Sept. 3 in the International Business Times:
I suspect that the Gulf States may also be wary of allowing a large number of politically vocal Arabs into their countries that might somehow influence a traditionally politically-passive society.
Further compounding the problem is that none of the Gulf states signed the 1951 Refugee Convention that defines a refugee as a person “outside the country of his nationality’ because of ‘fear of being persecuted for reasons of race, religion, nationality.”
Failure to sign the post-World War II convention means Gulf states don’t have to recognize the refugees and do not have to cooperate with the U.N. resettlement program.
Many of those Palestinian refugees from 1948 have not been naturalized by their own Arab governments and remain stateless people without a passport or citizenship rights in any Arab country.
Saudi Arabia, through its state-run press agency, stated it does not accept Syrian refugees but will accept Syrian citizens who want to live in “dignity” within its borders. The monarchy asserts it has accepted 2.5 million Syrians in that manner.
But Amnesty International USA says the claim refers to migrant workers who work in the kingdom for low wages. “None of them went through the U.N. resettlement process. They are migrant workers throughout the Gulf states,” Mock says.
“Just to accept those without participating in the U.N. resettlement process is not showing the leadership we think they need to be taking,” he says.
This report, by Richard Pollock, was cross-posted by arrangement with the Daily Caller News Foundation.