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Saudi counters 'misleading' reports, says 100,000 Syrians given refuge

Official says the country has 'made it a point' not to deal with Syrians as refugees but to offer residency permits instead
Syrian refugees leave their country in the back of a Jordanian army truck earlier this month (AFP)

Saudi Arabia on Friday responded to "false and misleading" reports about its response to the Syrian refugee crisis, saying it has given residency to 100,000 people from the war-ravaged state.

The kingdom's statement followed a similar defence issued earlier this week by the United Arab Emirates, after questions started to be asked about how wealthy Arab states have reacted to the outflow of more than four million Syrians.

Germany alone is expected to receive 800,000 asylum-seekers from Syria and elsewhere this year.

Many more Syrians are sheltering in Jordan, Lebanon and Turkey - although aid agencies warn that many of these refugees are facing acute poverty and hunger following aid cuts in July and are considering returning to the war-torn country.

An official from Saudi Arabia's ministry of foreign affairs, cited by the official Saudi Press Agency, said the kingdom did not want "to show off or brag in the media" about its response to Syria, where civil war began four years ago.

"However, it sees the importance of clarifying these efforts in response to false and misleading media reports about the kingdom," the unnamed official said.

Saudi Arabia "made it a point not to deal with them as refugees" but has issued residency permits to 100,000 Syrians who wished to stay in the kingdom, the official said.

"With that came the right to free education, healthcare and employment according to a royal decree in 2012 that also states that Syrian students visiting the kingdom be admitted in public schools," the official added.

The kingdom has supported millions of Syrian refugees in Jordan, Lebanon and other countries in coordination with the host countries, while providing a total of about $700mn in humanitarian aid, he said.

No Gulf country has signed the UN Convention on Refugees, which sets standards for the treatment and rights of those fleeing to a new country.

Gulf states have been among the most ardent opponents of Syrian President Bashar al-Assad, providing funds and weapons for rebel groups fighting him.

At the same time, Saudi Arabia and its neighbours last year joined a US-led military coalition bombing the militant Islamic State group rebels in Syria.

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