The United Arab Emirates has announced it will welcome around 15,000 Syrian refugees into the country within the next five years.
During a United Nations refugee summit in New York, UAE Minister of State for International Cooperation Reem Al Hashemi announced the country's new plan, which would make it the first country of the Gulf Cooperation Council to grant Syrians asylum as refugees and not residency as guest workers. What's On reports that 250,000 Syrians currently live in the UAE as guest workers.
"Ultimately, we must offer a source of hope for displaced persons that allows them to maintain dignity, return home, reintegrate themselves into their societies, and rebuild their countries and their lives,” said Al Hashemi during the summit.
The other GCC countries, which include Bahrain, Kuwait, Oman, Qatar and Saudi Arabia, have yet to comment on whether they will accept refugees in the near future. These Arab countries are not bound by the U.N.'s 1951 Refugee Convention and are not obliged to give asylum seekers the rights and treatments of a refugee, according to The Huffington Post. While many displaced Syrians do reside in these countries, they are considered guest workers, not refugees, meaning they can never qualify for citizenship.
Most GCC countries have spent hundreds of millions in refugee relief and in funds to build refugee camps. The UAE has given $750 million to aid Syrian refugees in the past five years.
"This is an important step forward, which must be complemented by a dedication to preventing wars and conflicts, currently the main drivers of forced migration," said Al Hashemi, according to Gulf News. "The UAE is committed to working with [the U.S.] to find collective and effective solutions to prevent further escalation of the global refugee crisis."
Al Hashemi did not give specifics on how the refugees will be housed or what types of benefits they will receive, only saying that the country would "meet the basic needs of refugees" and "maintain their dignity and offer hope for their future."