GCC countries have a clear strategy in dealing with refugee crisis, conference hears

  • 14 December 2015

The Gulf Cooperation Countries [GCC] follow a clear policy based on providing humanitarian and political support for Syrian refugees that have been forced to flee their country as a result of conflict, said a government official during a security conference held on Monday.

The GCC countries and their role towards Syrian refugees has come under the spotlight over the last few months, with several European countries feeling the strain of hundreds of thousands of migrants pouring in.

Speaking at the Security in the Arabian Gulf conference organised by the Emirates Centre for Strategic Studies and Research Centre, Sultan Al Shamsi, Assistant Undersecretary for International Development, said the UAE is strongly committed to supporting Syrian refugees.

“In the UAE we do not have people under refugee statuses, however we have welcomed more than 100,000 Syrians ever since the war broke out, accepting Syrians who have relatives here, and we have granted thousands of resident and work visa permits in that time,” he said.

“Finding a political solution is the long term vision (of the UAE), but there also has to be a clear road map for humanitarian and development assistance,” he added.

Al Shamsi remarked that such efforts would require international cooperation by all nations, warning that a failure to do so would lead to negative consequences.

“If we do not support the refugees with aid and care, we leave them vulnerable to groups like Daesh, so there must be a focus on humanitarian care,” he said.

Jack Straw, former UK Secretary of State for Foreign and Commonwealth Affairs, praised the GCC countries for having a unified strategy in stark comparison to the European Union [EU].

“There is a coherent GCC strategy to handle the extraordinary number of migrants coming out of Syria. People may agree or disagree with the strategy but it is one nonetheless, and this plan says that Gulf States will financially support refugees in the close neighbourhood of Syria,” he said.

“When we look at Europe on the other hand, what we see is a continent that has no strategy, and as a result we (Europeans) are now paying a very high price,” he added.

Straw went on to say that he personally supports the positions taken by the GCC.

“The most important thing for the GCC is to increase the aid it provides to countries that are hosting Syrian refugees, like Jordan and Lebanon,” he said.

“Opening the borders (and allowing unlimited number of Syrian refugees) will not solve the problem, but increase the security risk as it has done in Europe,” he added.

Straw added that he was hopeful Syria could eventually recover as a country once the civil war is brought to an end, citing the example of Germany post Second World War.

“There was a willingness to reconstruct Germany and overtime it happened. In the beginning there was anarchy, migrant flows, and criminality, but gradually the country was rebuilt to the astonishing level we see today,” he said.

“These improvements [in Syria] can happen but require a political will,” Straw added.