According to speisa.com, BBC News, and sources cited by this skeptics post, and many others, "rich Arab gulf states" accept none or almost none Syrian refugees:

The six wealthy Gulf countries - Qatar, the United Arab Emirates, Saudi Arabia, Kuwait and Bahrain - have offered to receive exactly zero Syrian refugees.

Or BBC News:

Without a visa, Syrians are not currently allowed to enter Arab countries except for Algeria, Mauritania, Sudan and Yemen.

However, other sources such as india.com and US News report that Saudi Arabia claims to have received millions of Syrians, but that they are statistically not considered refugees. This part of the claim is not addressed in the aforementioned Skeptics post:

Saudi Arabia announced on Friday it has received 2.5 million Syrians since the beginning of Syrian crisis in 2011, Saudi Press Agency reported late Friday.

...and U.S. News:

Saudi Arabia said it has taken in about 2.5 million Syrians on religious and humanitarian grounds in the years since the country's conflict began and has offered residency to hundreds of thousands, as it sought to rebut suggestions that oil-rich Gulf states should do more to address the plight of refugees fleeing civil war.

The official Saudi Press Agency quoted an unnamed official at the Foreign Ministry as saying the kingdom does not consider those it has taken in as refugees and does not house them in camps "in order to ensure their dignity and safety."

That's a rather large difference, between 0 and 2.5 million. And it seems like keeping track of 2.5 million people should be... possible.

Is there any reliable, objective source keeping track of this? Is it fair to say that the "rich Arab gulf states" have accepted none or almost no refugees from Syria? Is there objective evidence to suppport or shed doubt on the Saudi claim that Saudi Arabia has accepted many people from Syria?

  • 2
    Is this going to revolve around the definition of refugee?
    – Oddthinking
    Commented Sep 13, 2015 at 3:24
  • 11
    If they're only given the rights of migrant workers, forced to work 100 hour weeks or get sacked and kicked out, then that wouldn't be the same as getting the rights of refugees.
    – Golden Cuy
    Commented Sep 14, 2015 at 13:33
  • 2
    By the way, the article you linked talks about 2.5M people and also states that schools have accepted 100k students. That means only 1 out of 25 Syrians goes to school. Just take some time to check an age picture diagram for Syria and you'll see that's about 5 times too low. So either the conditions are really, really bad, or the figures are made up.
    – spectras
    Commented Sep 15, 2015 at 22:26
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    @gerrit> possible, but 1) that would contradict what they say in the articles about hosting families and 2) given Saoudi Arabia has close to 10M foreign workers, having 2M of them being Syrian would not be that outstanding. Also, you have to consider migrants are not refugees: they don't have the same guarantees, the same rights, or any international status recognition. There are also dreadful examples of foreign worker abuses is SA that reinforce this concern.
    – spectras
    Commented Sep 16, 2015 at 15:48
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    speisa.com says the countries have not offered to receive refugees. That's saying nothing about how they handle refugees that enter their countries. As for the BBC quote, Syrians are not "allowed" to enter European countries without a visa, either. What happens with refugees is, they enter a country without being "allowed", and then apply for political asylum so they don't get deported to their country of origin. And getting a European visa is no bag of laughs either. There's a lot of ambiguity in the question as to what exactly is being claimed here.
    – DevSolar
    Commented Mar 16, 2017 at 10:02

1 Answer 1


For an official source see:

2015 UNHCR subregional operations profile - Middle East

This source lists total number of refugees in the following countries as of June 2015:

Kuwait: 593

United Arab Emirates: 424

Bahrain: 277

Saudi Arabia: 211

Qatar: 133

Oman: 122

The refugees are not necessarily from Syria, so these numbers are really just an upper limit on the number of refugees from Syria. In any case, the numbers show that at most a small number of refugees were taken in by these countries at the time of the claim in OP.

However, not all persons originating from Syria are considered "refugees".
See the World Bank's Migration and Remittances Data which shows (for example for 2013) that there were 1,000,000 Syrian "migrants" in Saudi Arabia.

So overall the major disparity in the OP is largely explained by the technical definition of who is considered a "refugee".

  • 1
    That probably includes migrant workers which are going to be kicked out when their job ends.
    – D J Sims
    Commented Mar 15, 2016 at 2:00
  • 1
    @Mustang: Migrant workers in Arab states tend to have the opposite problem: being refused exit permits due to employer or industry pressure (or simply being unable to bribe officials). Yes, in several countries you basically need another visa to be allowed to leave and return home.
    – slebetman
    Commented Mar 18, 2016 at 8:08
  • @Mustang yes, I agree in the case of Saudi Arabia. There is more information here: gulfnews.com/news/gulf/saudi-arabia/…
    – DavePhD
    Commented Mar 18, 2016 at 15:41

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