Why weren't Syrian Refugees accepted any other Islamic countries?

My heart goes out for refugees as a whole.
But I had no answer to this question posed by a friend at work.
He was asking why the very rich Arab Emirates, Saudi or Kuwait who are right next door did not lift a finger to help those poor souls.
Or populous almost 100% Islamic nations such as Indonesia, Pakistan or Bangladesh.
I am not an expert on Islamic thought processes and divisions so I am asking the experts here.

First of all, did they? I suspect it’s more likely that they did, and there are just too many refugees for them to take all of them.

I have been asking around. The general consensus is that except Turkey no others extended a helping hand. The other heartbreaking thing I heard which of course cannot be verified is that a lot of people who were not actually Syrian managed to slip through to countries like Germany earning them the title of economic refugees. An Eritrean friend of mine did that. The civil war decimated his people. Somehow obtained a tourist visa to Hungary. Greased palms at the Hungarian border and slipped into Austria. Then to Rome and finally Canada. One of the most hardworking people I know.

Where do you ask this question around? The local VFW? Here’s a good place to start:

I admit I have not inquired officially.
My neighbors are Syrian refugees. Even they have no idea.
Their answer was typical. Only people in high places have the answers.
Hence my question.

Well, you can’t get people in higher places than those who post on this message board, so this is certainly the right place to ask.

My reasons exactly.
Even looking at the stats provided by Munch it is obvious that the maximum number went to Germany and only a trickle managed to reach other arab nations.
I was looking at old news reports there is pretty much no comment from these nations about the refugee crisis or anything about them lending a helping hand.
Being of the same religion and culture I would have expected them to do more by way of providing a safe haven for those poor souls. Especially Saudi with its huge land area and oil wealth.

[emphasis added]

The idea that Islam is a unified religious practice and that all Muslims are part of a common culture is fundamentally in error. Without delving into the detailed geopolitics, I’ll just note that “Islam” is not some unified theocratic or political movement, and there are widely varied national and regional cultures within Islam-majority nations; even within the major ‘branches’ of Islam, Sunni and Shia, there are enormous divides of belief and practice. Just as the European Wars of Religion in the 16th and 17th centuries were not just about religion (and often had Catholics and various flavors of Protestant fighting together against other Catholics or Protestants), the cultural fractures within even those branches of Islam.

For sure, the Shia majority in Iraq aren’t going to welcome the predominately Sunni Syrians. The “rich” Arab Muslims are dominated by corrupt royal families that don’t actually give much of a shit even of their own populations and certainly aren’t going to extend help to Syria at the potential risk of alienating their Western patrons. Indonesia, Pakistan, and Bangladesh all have their own problems and less connection to Syria than does Turkey or (parts of) Central Europe, which at least have a continuum of literary and culinary traditions. And of course, nobody likes dealing with refugees because they’re messy, needy, often require remedial language and cultural training to be even marginally employable, and are often viewed as an outsized security risk (even though in relative numbers they rarely pose a significant increase in violent crime or terrorist activity).

So Syria, which never had to become the humanitarian disaster it has become, is now hemorrhaging refugees at volumes not seen since World War II, and nobody knows where to put them. The Saudis certainly don’t want them, and virtually no other Islamic-majority nation could actually afford to take in the sheer volume of them even if they were willing to do so, which most are not.


A lot of Arab states in the region also don’t have an amazing capacity to do a lot with the refugees. Turkey (not an Arab state), which is right next door basically had to deal with them because it was on their border, and Turkey is also the most powerful country in the region. Saudi Arabia and Egypt (both Arab Muslim countries) certainly had the resources to do more, especially Saudi Arabia. But the idea that they necessarily feel a significant affinity for Syrian refugees is probably not likely. Pan-Arabism is an interesting phenomenon, when governments want to use it to justify various things to their benefits it’s a major ideology, when it might mean supporting or helping Arabs of “different tribes” or slightly different sects of Islam, it’s like the concept goes out the window.

Jordan and Lebanon have/had almost no capacity to deal with the refugees, they were just unfortunately saddled with a lot of them because they were Syria’s neighbors. Remember that for many years Lebanon was basically a vassalized state of Syria, and is a small country with a host of serious problems of its own concerning stability etc. Jordan is better ran and more stable, but is small and not a rich petro state.

The small gulf oil monarchies are simply too small population wise to easily tolerate a big influx of refugees, but they are wealthy enough they certainly could have done more to assist with the problem.

It goes back to what I said–Pan-Arabism is really a convenient political expression when the (often corrupt) leaders of Arab states want to use it for their benefit. It shouldn’t be confused as a genuine concern with the affairs of Arabs from other countries in any real sense.

Eye opener. That clarified a few things for me. Thank you.

Here’s some info from World Vision, a humanitarian aid group (go about halfway down the page):

Where are Syrian refugees going?

The majority of Syrian refugees, about 5.6 million, have fled — by land and sea — across borders to neighboring countries but remain in the Middle East.

  • Turkey — Nearly 3.7 million Syrian refugees are in Turkey, the largest refugee population worldwide. About 90% of Syrians in Turkey live outside of refugee camps and have limited access to basic services.
  • Lebanon — 855,000 Syrian refugees make up about one-eighth of Lebanon’s population. Many live in primitive conditions in informal tent settlements, which are not official refugee camps. With few legal opportunities to earn money, they struggle to afford residency fees, rent, utilities, and food.
  • Jordan — 668,000 Syrian refugees are in Jordan. Some 120,000 people live in Za’atari and Azraq refugee camps, where aid groups have converted desert wastes into cities.
  • Iraq — 247,000 Syrian refugees are in Iraq. Most are in the Kurdistan region in the north where more than a million Iraqis fled to escape ISIS. Most refugees are integrated into communities, putting a strain on services.
  • Egypt — 132,000 Syrian refugees are in Egypt.

Another source lists those same five Arab-ish countries along with Germany as the top six. (I rounded the numbers. Data are from 2019. They include Syrian refugees from any time period, not just the current troubles):

Turkey - 3.5 million
Lebanon - 900k
Jordan - 650k
Germany - 570k
Iraq - 250k
Egypt - 130k

And this site lists the ten countries that have received the most refugees in relation to their population over the last 10 years. It’s refugees from everywhere, not just Syria.

1. Lebanon – 19.5 per cent of the total population

2. Jordan – 10.5 per cent

3. Nauru – 5.9 per cent

4. Turkey – 5.0 per cent

5. Liberia – 4.1 per cent

6. Uganda – 3.7 per cent

7. Malta – 2.7 per cent

8. Sudan – 2.6 per cent

9. Sweden – 2.6 per cent

10. South Sudan – 2.5 per cent

Three of the ten (and 3 of the top 4) are Mideast neighbors of Syria

Four are African

Only two are European,

And one is a small, Pacific island nation

I found all of that with just a quick search on Googly. These numbers are quite different–really the opposite–of what you’ve heard “asking around.”

Because Nauru is Australia’s refugee dumping ground.

Jordan was already dealing with literally millions of refugees, mostly Palestinian but also Iraqi and Lebanese when hundreds of thousands of Syrians spilled over the border on top of all that. I’m not sure how many more people a nation like Jordan, which as already noted is NOT one of the mega-rich petroleum nations, should be expected to take in.

The real question is why a place like Saudia Arabia isn’t doing more. The answer seems to be the royal family doesn’t want to, and doesn’t want non-Saudis coming into their precious territory.

The wealthiest Arab Oil States do the least for refugees. Meanwhile, smaller, less wealthy nations in the region do what they can but there really are too many refugees for them to manage and provide them with humane conditions.

Did you read the news published in and for the citizens of Syria’s neighbors, which presumably focuses on their interests, or did you only read news reports published in and for you and/or the “Western world”, which, weirdly, concentrates primarily on how world issues affect the “Western world”?

Not news tailored for the ‘western world’. Just general news.
Asked my friends who live in those countries who read their local newspapers and watch local TV.
I lived in Dubai just after the first Gulf War ended and my neighborhood was full of people from Kuwait.

Saudi Arabia has quite a lot of foreign workers. According to a snippet from the Financial Times, 10 million of them. (Link required me to answer a question to view the article.)

Here’s a non-protected column that shows the same figure.

I thought quite a lot of them would be Syrian, since there are so many Syrians in Jordan. From a quick look around, the numbers are all over the place on how many Syrians are in Saudi Arabia, but it’s a substantial amount.

One essay provide these numbers:

Saudi Arabia, for example, indicated that it had authorized entry permits for 2.5 million Syrians since 2011, but scholars have noted these numbers are unsupported by official data, estimating that the actual number is closer to 420,000.

Another one put the number at 780,000.

Syrians have been able to reside in the Kingdom with a temporary “visitor status”, renewable every six months. As of 2018, almost 700,000 Syrians stayed in Saudi Arabia on the basis of such permits.
A Recent History of Refugees in Saudi Arabia — Refugee History.

Apparently, the Syrians aren’t considered refugees because they fall under the kafala system. Conditions for foreign workers in Arab states can be pretty bad, sometimes not much better, or even worse than conditions in a refugee camp. But it’s not correct to say that Syrians are being kept out of Saudi Arabia.

Simple answer, they have.

There’s no such thing as a “general” news source. All news sources tailor their content to an intended audience, which is always more narrow than “the entire world”.

This seems to be the right answer to this thread. OP, any reason to keep it open?

Let’s close it.