UAE is strongly supporting Syrians

The UAE has helped finance and support the best-managed refugee camps in the world, including this one, the Zaatari Refugee Camp in Jordan. (Photo: Emirates red crescent)

The UAE has helped finance and support the best-managed refugee camps in the world, including this one, the Zaatari Refugee Camp in Jordan. (Photo: Emirates red crescent)

Since the Syrian crisis began in 2011, the United Arab Emirates has expressed its compassion and unwavering support for the people of Syria. The Syrian people are connected in our hearts as our brothers and sisters in our region and our government remains fully committed to continuing its strong support to alleviate their suffering, help them find a haven and help guarantee their basic right to lead dignified and meaningful lives.
Since this devastating crisis began, the UAE has provided more than 120,000 residency permits to Syrian nationals, bringing the total number of Syrian residents in the UAE close to 250,000, with more than 30,000 Syrian students being admitted to public and private schools, colleges and universities in the UAE.
At the United Nations Leaders’ Summit on Refugees in September 2016, the UAE government announced a new initiative to accept 15,000 more Syrian refugees over the next five years.
Since the beginning of the conflict, our government has also provided more than $600 million US in humanitarian and development aid, and pledged an additional $100 million in January 2015 in support of Syrian refugees, with a significant amount of these funds already being dispersed.

Reem Al Hashimi, UAE minister of state shown here at the UN, announced to the world body that UAE would accept 15,000 Syrian refugees. (Photo: UN Photo)

Reem Al Hashimi, UAE minister of state shown here at the UN, announced to the world body that UAE would accept 15,000 Syrian refugees. (Photo: UN Photo)

The UAE is committed to turning promises into action. Immediately following the announcement at the UN, Sheikh Abdullah bin Zayed Al Nahyan, our foreign affairs and international cooperation minister, visited Ottawa and met with then-immigration minister John McCallum. The two ministers discussed Canada’s successful experience resettling refugees, and minister McCallum invited UAE technical officials to visit and learn from Canada’s best practices.
Simultaneously, the UAE quickly formed a high-level technical team, headed by the Ministry of Foreign Affairs and International Co-operation, and including representatives from the Ministry of Interior, Ministry of Defence, Ministry of Justice, Ministry of Education, Ministry of Health and Prevention, the Emirates Red Crescent (the counterpart of the Red Cross) and the Khalifa bin Zayed Al Nahyan Foundation, to seek international best practices in this area and determine how best to implement resettlement policy on the ground.
Following the Canadian government’s invitation, a UAE technical team travelled to Canada in November, as organized by Global Affairs Canada and Immigration, Refugees and Citizenship Canada (IRCC), to learn about the successful Canadian experience in accepting and resettling refugees.
While working on long-term solutions, the UAE has also helped finance and support the best-managed refugee camps in the world. The UAE-financed Mrajeeb Al Fhood refugee camp in Jordan, home to more than 4,000 Syrian refugees, has often been covered in the media because it employs some the world’s best chefs, providing gourmet meals throughout the day (inclusive of dietary-requirement meals); access to medical care around the clock in co-ordination with UNICEF; a fully equipped school for children; hot showers, and the highest standards in electricity and street lighting.
The UAE also contributed $72 million US in 2014-2015 to various refugee camps in Jordan, Lebanon, Iraq and Turkey.
Furthermore, it is worth mentioning that the UAE, together with Germany and the United States, has established the Syria Recovery Trust Fund (SRTF) to restore essential services in areas under the control of the Syrian interim government. It is the first fund established to operate inside Syria.
The UAE is also a co-leader of the Friends of Syria Early Economic Recovery Working Group as another step to providing necessary assistance in this regard.
However, the UAE strongly believes that without a sustainable solution to the conflict in Syria, it will be impossible to solve the refugee crisis. The UAE looks forward to working with its international partners and the global community at large to find fundamental solutions.
Trying to tackle one of the root causes of violent extremism in Syria and the region, the UAE has sought viable solutions to counter DAESH [ISIS] through the creation of the Hedayah Centre, an international centre established to counter violent extremism by promoting understanding and sharing best practices. In addition, the United States and UAE jointly launched the Sawab Centre, the first multinational online messaging program in support of the Global Coalition against DAESH.
The Sawab Centre uses online engagement to rapidly counter terrorist propaganda, including messages used to recruit foreign fighters and fundraise for illicit activities, and to present moderate and tolerant voices from across the region.
In addition, the Muslim Council of Elders and the Forum for the Promotion of Peace in Muslim Communities were established to promote the true ideals of Islam. These institutions aim to protect young people who have been polarized by extremist, sectarian and terrorist groups, and to counter the false claims of these groups.
The Syrian crisis cannot be resolved through military means, and must incorporate goodwill and political determination to successfully solve this crisis.
The situation is further complicated by Iran’s expansionist policies and its interference in the internal affairs of neighbouring countries, which causes a great deal of tension and instability in the region.
Within these circumstances, we look forward to working with our international partners, such as Canada, to see the return of peace and a viable future for the people of Syria once again.

Mohammed Saif Helal Al Shehhi is the ambassador of UAE.

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Mohammed Saif Helal Al Shehhi is the ambassador of UAE.

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