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As of September 2016, the number of Syrians in Saudi Arabia is estimated to be 500,000[2] and consists mainly of temporary foreign workers.[3] According to the United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees' representative for the Persian Gulf region, Syrian nationals are referred to as "Arab brothers and sisters in distress".[1] Saudi Arabia does not consider Syrians as refugees. They are provided free access to education and healthcare, and allowed to take up jobs.[4]

Syrians in Saudi Arabia
Saudi Arabia Syria Locator (orthographic projection).svg
A map showing Syria in brown and Saudi Arabia in green
Total population
Regions with significant populations
Riyadh, Jeddah, Dammam
Arabic (Syrian Arabic), English
Islam, Christianity


As of September 2015, the flow of refugees to the European Union has increased significantly, and there is a rise in criticism of some Muslim nations for allegedly accepting few refugees. The Syrian Civil War forced millions to flee their homes in search of safety. Saudi Arabia, as a rich country, was heavily criticized for not offering land to Syrian refugees – it only offers resettlement for asylum-seekers whose families already reside in Saudi Arabia.[5]

Total numberEdit

The CIA World Factbook estimated that as of 2013, foreign nationals living in Saudi Arabia made up about 21% of the population. Total number of Syrians in Saudi Arabia was 100,000 before the start of Syrian Civil War [6]

Saudi Arabia, like all the other Arab states of the Persian Gulf, is not a signatory to the 1951 United Nations Refugee Convention,[7] which mandates member states to protect refugees within their country. However, according to a Saudi official, Saudi Arabia has issued residency permits to 100,000 Syrians.[5] On the other hand, the BBC claims, "Most successful cases are Syrians already in the Gulf states extending their stays, or those entering because they have family there,"[3] and, "No Syrians claiming asylum have been taken in by Saudi Arabia or other wealthy Gulf countries."[8]

Syrians in Saudi Arabia include migrants from Syria to Saudi Arabia and their descendants. The number of Syrians in Saudi Arabia (referred to as "Arab brothers and sisters in distress") was estimated to be at around 500,000[1] people in August 2015 and consisted mainly of temporary foreign workers.[3][1]

Conflicting versionsEdit

Saudi foreign ministry officials claim that the nation has received nearly 2.5 million Syrians since 2011.[9][10] However, the BBC reports that Saudi Arabia has let in 500,000 Syrian refugees since 2011,[11] while Arab News reported that Saudi Arabia was already home to 500,000 Syrians[12] Saudi Arabia claims to have granted 100,000 Syrians residency. An official from Saudi Arabia's Ministry of Foreign Affairs stated that Saudi Arabia "made it a point not to deal with them as 'refugees'."[5]

Huffington post has criticized the international community for saying that Saudi Arabia has taken no refugees. The newspaper claimed that outlets in the US have exploited a technicality used by the UN to count Syrian refugees, and that it is more plausible that 500,000 Syrian refugees are currently in Saudi Arabia.[2]

Notable Syrians in Saudi ArabiaEdit

See alsoEdit


  1. ^ a b c d Donna Abu-Nasr (4 September 2015). "Syria's Refugees Feel More Welcome in Europe Than in the Gulf".
  2. ^ a b Doanvo, Anhvinh (23 September 2015). "Western Media's Miscount of Saudi Arabia's Syrian Refugees". Huffington Post.
  3. ^ a b c Fathalla, Amira (2 September 2015). "Migrant crisis: Why Syrians do not flee to Gulf states". BBC News.
  4. ^ "Saudi donates $140 billion in global humanitarian aid". alarabiya. alarabiya. 5 December 2016. Retrieved 27 December 2016.
  5. ^ a b c "Saudi Arabia says criticism of Syria refugee response 'false and misleading'". The Guardian. 11 September 2015.
  6. ^ Kapiszewski, Andrzej (22 May 2006). "Arab versus Asian migrant workers in the GCC countries" (PDF). p. 10.
  7. ^ Tharoor, Ishaan (4 September 2015). "The Arab world's wealthiest nations are doing next to nothing for Syria's refugees". Washington Post.
  8. ^ "Demand to open doors to Syrians spreading online". BBC News. 2 September 2015.
  9. ^ "Saudi Arabia denies not giving Syrians sanctuary". Al Jazeera.
  10. ^ "2.5m Syrians hosted by KSA since uprising". Arab News. 12 September 2015.
  11. ^ Stephens, Michael (7 September 2015). "Migrant crisis: Why the Gulf states are not letting Syrians in". BBC News.
  12. ^ Jawhar, Sabria S. "KSA already home to 500,000 Syrians". Arab News.