Saudi Arabia hosts refugees at a rate of 5.5% of its population, and Riyadh is one of the biggest donors at the United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees (UNHCR), revealed the UN refugee agency’s regional representative, Khaled Khalifa.
The Kingdom has donated over $300 million to support UNHCR activity in primary sectors like health, education, and housing in several countries worldwide.
Around a million Yemeni refugees and 700,000 Syrians live in Saudi Arabia, said Khalifa in his capacity as UNHCR’s representative to the Gulf Cooperation Council (GCC).
Apart from its position as a significant accommodator of displaced persons, Saudi Arabia also offers establishment support to the UN refugee agency through its King Salman Humanitarian Aid and Relief Center (KSRelief) and Saudi Fund for Development (SFD).
“These bodies support UNHCR in establishing projects and coordinating basic humanitarian efforts such as securing shelter, food, and health services,” Khalifa told Asharq Al-Awsat.
KSRelief and the SFD also help UNHCR development agendas covering education, infrastructure, and livelihoods of refugees.
The global number of refugees doubled from 10.5 million to around 20.4 million in 2012, pointed out Khalifa, adding that by the end of 2018, nearly 70.8 million people were forcibly displaced around the world.
In 2020, the number of refugees fleeing persecution, conflict, violence, and human rights violations hit 80 million, according to the representative.
However, the coronavirus pandemic significantly slowed down the influx of refugees worldwide.
“The rate of displacement has greatly decreased due to the closure of borders between countries during the pandemic,” said Khalifa, reaffirming that refugees in GCC states, especially Saudi Arabia, enjoy unmatched care and opportunity.
“Refugees in the Gulf in general, and the Kingdom in particular, live in conditions that are superior to their peers in the rest of the world because of their access to free treatment and vaccinations,” added Khalifa, praising the Saudi government’s equality-centered policy for granting vaccinations to all residents and arrivals.
For three decades, the UNHCR has been officially operating in Saudi Arabia, where it works in close coordination and cooperation with government and humanitarian agencies to provide protection and assistance to refugees and displaced people around the world.