In the wake of international criticism of GCC countries for not accepting refugees, the United Arab Emirates has announced its commitment to accept 15,000 Syrian refugees over the next five years.
"We meet at a critical time. The number of refugees and displaced persons is the largest in modern history. This crisis is being driven by a series of interlinked conflicts, fueled by extremism that crosses borders and transcends geographies," Reem Ebrahim Al Hashemi, Minister of State for International Cooperation, said at the Leaders’ Summit on Refugees in New York, according to Gulf News .
"However, what brings us together today, is our collective commitment to strengthening international cooperation and action, through a comprehensive approach to refugee crises."
In her speech, Hashemi highlighted the efforts the UAE has already undertaken to address the refugee crisis.
"Over the last five years, the UAE has provided more than US$750 million to support Syrian refugees, mainly in neighboring countries that are facing considerable pressure," she said.
“The UAE believes that we must not just meet the basic needs of refugees, but we also maintain their dignity and offer hope for their future. In refugee camps that the UAE has set up in Jordan, Northern Iraq, even in Greece, we provide the basic life-saving support such as shelter, food, basic health, water, and sanitation."
Hashemi further reminded the summit that the UAE is one of the most generous nations in the world .
"The UAE is honoured to have contributed more than 1 percent of its GNI annually to foreign aid for the last three years, putting us among the top donors globally, and we are proud to be increasing our humanitarian financing."
In January, the UAE was named as the country to give the largest percentage of its gross national income to official development assistance in the world for the second year running, according to data from the Development Assistance Committee of the Organization for Economic Co-operation and Development .
This week, it was announced that the Emirates Red Crescent has set up two Syrian refugee camps in Greece. One has already opened in Athens and the second will welcome some 2,000 refugees starting in October.
Previously, the UAE argued that while it did not take refugees, it has accepted a larger number of Syrians on work visas and on family visas since the conflict began.
"Since the onset of the crisis in 2011, the UAE has welcomed more than 250,000 Syrian nationals, who enjoy full rights to free health care, education and work in accordance with the residency system in the country," UAE Assistant Foreign Minister for Political Affairs Ahmed Al Jarman said last October.
At the time, Jarman also cautioned that dealing with the refugee crisis should address the causes, such as “poverty, conflicts, extremist violence by committing to enhancing international cooperation for development, resolving conflicts through peaceful means and promoting values of tolerance, moderation and respect for sovereignty.”