Western countries, having absorbed hundreds of thousands of refugees from Syria, Iraq and Libya over the last year, are indicating that their days of open border generosity may be nearing an end. With resources stretched to their limits and massive political backlash building, what recourse is available to refugees from those crisis-hit countries?
At least a few names that can safely be scratched off the list as potential harbors for migrants are the Gulf States. Since 2011, the lion's share of the more than 4.3 million migrants that have fled conflict-torn countries have managed to find shelter in places like Europe, Turkey, Egypt and Jordan. Yet critics have questioned why wealthy countries such as Bahrain, Qatar and United Arab Emirates have largely sat on their hands.
To be sure, Gulf countries have provided about $2 billion in humanitarian assistance and bilateral aid for various programs and charities since 2012, according to United Nations figures. That said, very few have opened their borders to the countless migrants fleeing terror, and are unlikely to alter their stance as countries like Norway and Germany — which has absorbed at least 900,000 refugees — pull back on their commitment to take them in.
"They have contributed large sums toward humanitarian aid and investments they make in several places in the region," said Demetrios G. Papademetriou, a former U.S. Labor Department official and co-founder of the Migration Policy Institute, in an interview. "They are M.I.A. when it comes to refugee resettlement, but not for investment."
United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees data provided to CNBC showed that Kuwait has donated more than $120 million to the organization for the Syrian refugee crisis, making it the UNHCR's second largest donor for that project behind the U.S. Saudi Arabia, Qatar and the UAE are among UNHCR's top 25 donors for the Syria crisis, it added.
Bahrain, Qatar and the UAE have growth rates well above 3 percent, compared to less than 2 percent in Germany and France — both of which are taking in migrants by the tens of thousands.
All of which raises anew the question of why Gulf States — with their comparatively stronger growth prospects — have yet to accept large numbers of migrants.
"These places, wealthy though they may be and [because of] internal security and religious issues, decided to get out of the business of taking in refugees," Papademetriou said.