Syrians adapt to life in Saudi, but still long for their homeland

Published October 12th, 2016 - 10:43 GMT
Syrians living a relatively stable life in Saudi Arabia still worry about family back home or in refugee camps. (AFP/Georges Ourfalian)
Syrians living a relatively stable life in Saudi Arabia still worry about family back home or in refugee camps. (AFP/Georges Ourfalian)

Although they appreciate living in a stable economic and secure country, and having full government services provided to them, Syrians hosted in Saudi Arabia have not forgotten their homeland, beloved friends and relatives who failed to leave Syria, or those who chose to leave for Western countries.

Syrians living in Jeddah are afraid of hearing bad news of relatives who still live in Syria. However, they have no choice but to be addicted to the news to follow up on what is happening to their homeland, while free calls on smartphone applications are the best way to contact their loved ones, whenever possible.
 
Since the beginning of the Syrian crisis in 2011, the Saudi government has not accepted Syrians as refugees, but as guests who enjoy the same rights as other expat workers. Since there are no refugee camps for Syrians in the Kingdom; these “guests” can live in any Saudi city and work in the private sector.
 
Despite these relatively pleasant conditions compared to what many of their country men and women are enduring in refugee camps elsewhere, many Saudi-based Syrians can’t wait to return to their homeland, but at the same time are not optimistic that the war will end anytime soon.
 
According to official statistics, Saudi Arabia now hosts over 2.5 million Syrians who have fled their country since the Assad regime began its brutal retaliation in 2011. Not only does the Kingdom provide work, education and health support. The authorities made a decision not to deport any Syrians, even after the expiry of his or her residency documents. A royal decree was recently issued to exempt Syrians for these violations because of the dangers facing them if they return to their country.
 
On the labor issue, a royal decree approved recommendations of a committee to allow Syrians who entered the Kingdom, with a visitor or temporary visas, to work in the country. This would ensure that their skills could be put to good use. On the health front, a royal decree was issued two years ago ensuring that all Syrians would be able to get emergency care at the state’s expense at primary health care centers and public hospitals.
 
One of the Saudi government’s facilities that has been granted to Syrian expatriates is the extendable visit visa. The government allowed Syrians to invite their family members on visit visas that can be extended for unlimited periods. This move encouraged Syrian expatriates to invite their relatives who left Syria and took refuge in neighboring countries.
 
The Saudi government allows Syrians who have visit visas to work. I found a job in a shop for Syrian food products in Jeddah.
“However, I am worried about my friends who failed to leave Syria for a neighboring country. It is necessary to have family members living Saudi Arabia to get a visit visa. But some Syrians have no one in the Kingdom so they live in bad economic situations in Syria’s neighboring countries,” Sharif Ahmad, a 25-year-old newcomer told Arab News.
 
To come to Saudi Arabia, Syrians must first escape their homeland to any country. Most Syrians escape to Turkey, Lebanon and Jordan. Then, when they get the chance they ask their relatives living in the Kingdom to send visit visas through Saudi embassies.
 
Editor's note: This article has been edited from the source material.

Copyright: Arab News © 2019 All rights reserved.

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