DUBAI, United Arab Emirates (AP) — The United Arab Emirates on Wednesday defended its response to the Syrian refugee crisis in the face of criticism that the country and other oil-rich Gulf states should be doing more to address the issue.
In a statement provided to The Associated Press, the Emirati government said it has provided residency permits to more than 100,000 Syrians who have entered the country since 2011, and that more than 242,000 Syrian nationals currently live in the country. It did not provide details on the visa terms.
"The UAE has made it one of its foreign policy priorities to address this issue in a sustainable and humane fashion together with its regional and international partners," the statement said.
The Emirates is a major destination for guest workers and foreign businesspeople from around the world, including the Middle East. Residency visas are typically tied to an employing sponsor or a resident family member, and do not allow for an indefinite stay in the country or an opportunity to acquire Emirati citizenship.
More than 9 million people live in the Emirates, with foreigners outnumbering citizens more than four to one.
The seven-state federation, which includes the Mideast commercial hub of Dubai and the oil-rich capital of Abu Dhabi, is the Arab world's second-largest economy. It is one of the most prominent Arab members of the U.S.-led aerial campaign against the Islamic State group in Iraq and Syria.
In addition to the visa extensions, the Emirates said it has provided more than $530 million in humanitarian aid and development assistance since 2012 in response to the Syrian crisis.
Part of that aid goes to fund the smallest of three refugee camps in Jordan, which is sheltering more than half a million Syrian refugees. The UAE-funded camp, known as Marajeeb al-Fhood, houses more than 4,000 refugees.
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This story has been corrected to clarify that the more than 100,000 visas since 2011 were newly issued.