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  • The tent city of Mina could house 3 million people.

    The tent city of Mina could house 3 million people. | Photo: Wikimedia Commons

Published 13 September 2015

While Europe struggles with the refugee crisis, Saudi Arabia, less than 2,032.5 km from Syria, has been largely unresponsive to the crisis.

Pressure continues to mount on Saudi Arabia to take Syrian refugees after it was revealed that the Middle Eastern country has 100,000 air conditioned tents that could house more than 3 million people, sitting empty.

The 20 square km tent city of Mina is used for five days each year by Hajj pilgrims, and deserted for the rest of the time.

The neatly arranged campsite is made up of eight-by-eight meter fire-proof tents, with kitchen and bathroom facilities.

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Yet while Europe struggles to find a solution to the millions asylum seekers making perilous journeys there, Saudi Arabia – less than 2,032.5 km from Syria and with resources at its disposal – has been largely unresponsive to the crisis.

According to the UNHCR, the United Nations’ refugee agency, there are around 500,000 Syrians living in Saudi Arabia, but they are not classified as asylum seekers, and it is not known when they arrived in the affluent country.

Activist and nonresident fellow at the Brookings Institution Luay Al Khatteeb reported that Saudi Arabia has not taken a single refugee, likewise Kuwait, Qatar and United Arab Emirates. Jordan meanwhile has taken 628,427.

No Gulf country has signed the U.N. Convention on Refugees, an accord standardizing the level of treatment of people fleeing to new countries.

"The Gulf must realize that now is the time to change their policy regarding accepting refugees from the Syria crisis," wrote columnist Sultan Sooud Al Qassemi, in the International Business Times. "It is the moral, ethical and responsible step to take."

However, Saudi Arabia has responded to reports about its reaction to the Syrian refugee crisis, saying they are “false and misleading.”

An unnamed official said that the oil-rich country was unwilling “to show off or brag in the media” about its response to Syria, the Guardian reports.

“However, it sees the importance of clarifying these efforts in response to false and misleading media reports about the kingdom. (Saudi Arabia) made it a point not to deal with them as refugees,” he said.

The official added that Saudi Arabia had donated US$700 million in humanitarian aid.

Meanwhile, Germany announced that it will bring border controls back into action Sunday and will temporarily leave the Schengen system, claiming it can not longer cope with the overwhelming amount of asylum seekers crossing the border from Austria, and has halted all trains from coming into the country from the southern border.

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