SEATTLE — Since the Syrian civil war, countries around the world had to establish new policies on how to best address the refugee crisis. Many countries tightened their immigration policies; other nations have welcomed refugees, eager to aid the victims of a war-torn region.
Still, some countries in the Gulf Cooperation Council (GCC), including Qatar, Saudi Arabia and the United Arab Emirates, had quite a different response to the crisis. Just smaller than the state of Connecticut, the nation of Qatar shares a border only with Saudi Arabia and has a population of just 2.3 million. Ahead are six facts to know about refugees in Qatar.
- Most Western media outlets published that GCC countries have not accepted even one refugee across their borders. However, these articles overlook Syrians who have relocated without the official title of “refugee.”
- Because GCC countries have not acceded to the 1951 United Nations Convention Relating to the Status of Refugees, they do not define Syrian immigrants as refugees, nor are these immigrants registered in the U.N.’s official database as “refugees.”
- Today, more than one million Syrians are living in the Gulf states. According to World Bank statistics, the number of Syrians residing in the Gulf has increased from 241,000 to more than 1.3 million between the years 2013 and 2015.
- According to World Data, Qatar received 83 official asylum applications in 2016, mostly from Iraq and Syria. So far, all applicants who have received a decision were granted asylum in Qatar.
- Because Qatar has not agreed to the U.N. Convention Relating to the Status of Refugees, refugees in Qatar are not entitled to protections guaranteed by the convention. One such protection that Syrians in Qatar lack is a refugee’s ability to obtain citizenship in the host country after a period has passed living in their new country.
- The Qatari foreign minister disagrees with allegations that Qatar hasn’t done enough for Syrian refugees, stating that “the state of Qatar is in no way falling short in its responsibilities when it comes to the Syrian crisis. Just look at the record and the various initiatives – humanitarian, economic, diplomatic and others – supported or directly launched by Qatar.”
It is important to consider that Qatar’s definition of “refugee” differs from the remainder of the world, and although Syrian immigrants do not have proper U.N. protections, some refugees in Qatar are nonetheless receiving material aid.
– Shannon Golden