Saudi Arabia has reportedly responded to the growing number of people fleeing the Middle East for western Europe – by offering to build 200 mosques in Germany.
Syria’s richer Gulf neighbours have been accused of not doing their fair share in the humanitarian crisis, with Bahrain, Kuwait, Qatar, Oman and the UAE also keeping their doors firmly shut to asylum-seekers.
According to the Frankfurter Allgemeine Zeitung, which quoted a report in the Lebanese newspaper Al Diyar, Saudi Arabia would build one mosque for every 100 refugees who entered Germany in extraordinary numbers last weekend.
It would be unfair to suggest that the Gulf Arab states have done nothing to help the estimated four million Syrians who have fled their country since the start of the conflict in 2011.
Just this week, the al Hayat newspaper reported that 500,000 Syrians had found homes in Saudi Arabia since the civil war began – as workers, not refugees.
There have also been significant contributions from rich individuals towards the upkeep of refugee camps round the Syrian border, estimated by the BBC to total around $900 million (£600 million).
But amid a history of competition between the Gulf states and Iranian-allied nations, there is a deep fear that allowing an influx of Syrian refugees could also let in Syrians loyal to Bashar al-Assad.
There also exists a more general concern about demographic change, leaving the states opposed to the idea of welcoming refugees. In the UAE, foreign nationals already outnumber citizens by more than five to one.
Back in Germany, Angela Merkel welcomed two refugee families at a home for asylum-seekers in the Berlin suburb of Spandau on Thursday.
She told reporters after the visit: “Their integration will certainly take place in part via the children, who will learn German very quickly in kindergarten. And I hope and believe that the great majority will want to learn our language very quickly.”
Whether she will welcome Saudi Arabia’s reported offer, which Al Diyar noted would “have to go through the federal authorities”, remains to be seen.
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