GRM 2010 GRM 2011

Abstract Details

Family Name:
First Name:
Title of Paper:
The Role of the Sending State in Irregular Migration: Evidence from Egypt
Paper Proposal Text :
How do sending states respond to the challenge of irregular migration? What types of policies do they develop to combat their citizens’ clandestine efforts at emigration, and to what extent do they enforce them? On these questions, the growing literature on irregular migration presents two complications: firstly, research on sending states’ policies to combat this phenomenon are generally shunned in favour of host states’ policies, while a broader focus on Western states or South-North migration eschews irregular migratory processes within the non-West; this ignores that the bulk of population movements takes place within South-South migration. Secondly, the literature generally assumes that irregular migration constitutes a problem for both sending and host states, examining their respective legal frameworks through this normative lens. Yet, empirical findings do not always support such an assumption, with sending states often being less than pro-active about preventing their citizens ‘exit.’

This paper examines the case-study of Egypt, historically the largest provider of migrant labour in the Middle East, in an effort to address both issues detailed above. In terms of the former, the paper provides a detailed overview of the major policies and practices that shaped Egyptians’ irregular migration within the Middle East. Thus, rather than discussing the efforts towards curbing Egyptians’ irregular emigration across the Mediterranean, it aims to add to the relevant literature by examining how the state has historically treated citizens who attempted to cross the Western Desert into Libya or, predominantly, irregular Egyptian migrants to the Gulf Cooperation Council [GCC] countries instead.

In terms of the former, the paper’s findings indicate the extent to which the Egyptian state has been complicit in enabling, and sustaining, irregular migration. The sending state, therefore, is seen not as a pro-active actor in combatting the phenomenon of its citizens’ intra-Arab irregular migration but, rather, as a passive supporter of such cross-border movements. While the Egyptian state has ostensibly attempted to limit irregular emigration via a variety of policies, legal measures, and numerous bilateral treaties signed with other Arab states over more than forty years, in reality it has been less wiling to enforce them. In fact, state authorities are more likely to ‘turn a blind eye’ to irregular migration, given its (perceived) importance in providing economic remittances and foreign exchange, and its ‘safety valve’ utility against the twin problems of unemployment and overpopulation.

The paper’s analysis builds on elite and expert interviews conducted in Cairo (n=31) between June 2013 and July 2014, quantitative data on the economics of Egyptian migration, and content analysis of the coverage of migration-related issues in the three main Egyptian newspapers (al-Ahram, al- Akhbar, al-Jumhuriya). It employs process-tracing methodology, where quantitative and qualitative data are examined sequentially to draw descriptive inference and to disconfirm rival explanations.