Reflections from the UAE where I was last week

I wrote to the officials in the UAE requesting a meeting to discuss the migration crisis. I wanted to know why they had not taken a single Syrian refugee. My letter was acknowledged, we followed up, we contacted the Foreign and Commonwealth Office to broker a meeting. It didn’t happen.

UAE media editorials each day reflect a pro EU bias, offering one-sided ‘evidence’ why Britain should remain in the EU and stating that Brexit is not even an option. More worryingly, the criticism of Europe for not taking yet more refugees continues. No mention is made of the escalating annual number of immigrants to the UK from other EU countries, let alone our commitment to asylum seekers. The first plane-full of refugees from Syria rather than Europe or the camps landed in Glasgow earlier this week, where suitable accommodation is being found for them despite a local inability to house those already on waiting lists.

And yet the UAE does not even subscribe to the current refugee programme, choosing instead to select and manage its own applications for citizenship, and stating that ‘cultural and economic differences’ make the Gulf states unsuitable for many fleeing Syrians. Pardon?

UAE newspaper editorials and opinion pieces refer to ‘right wing hatemongers’, which include Sarkozy’s Republicans and other mainstream politicians from Denmark to Hungary. Angela Merkel has been elevated to sainthood, yet no mention is made of the backlash against her in her own party (and increasingly amongst the wider electorate, recent polls suggest) for her open door invitation to refugees. This somewhat naive policy has now been embarrassingly curtailed in both Germany and in Sweden.

The UAE continues to import record numbers of overseas workers. Every nationality from around the world works here in the service industry. Syrians are proud people : they want to work to provide for their families. If Gulf states took in Syrians fleeing from their own country they would be settled closer to home, making it easier to return when it is safe and they would be sharing a similar culture and religion. It might well be easier for Syrian refuges to adapt within another profoundly Muslim culture than in Europe.

It is time for the Middle East to stop shirking its responsibilities. Rather than expecting Europe to house, feed, educate and clothe the people fleeing its geographical region, they could be sharing the burden more fairly, perhaps even training and arming its men and women to fight the Daesh rather than expecting the West to do its dirty work. Our young men and women should not be sacrificed for the destructive, extremist version of an ideology that the Middle East itself cannot control.

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