GRM 2010 GRM 2011

Abstract Details

Family Name:
De Bel-Air
First Name:
Title of Paper:
Migration Policies of Sending Arab Countries: Successes and Failures
Paper Proposal Text :
Gulf labour markets have been for decades the main destination for Arab nationals from the Mashrek. Faced with the increasing closure of Europe’s borders since the early 2000s, Maghreb countries also established links with Gulf countries in order to diversify migration venues for their nationals. However, in the aftermath of the Arab revolts and political turmoil experienced in the Arab world since 2011, Gulf States have enacted various measures to reverse immigration flows or limit the numbers of selected Arab nationals, amid recent labour nationalisation policies and general economic slowdown due to oil prices’ fall. The question explored in the contribution is thus the following: In the changing political context of decades-old Arab migration to the Gulf, how do political and economic factors interplay in the design and implementation of migration policies by sending states, directed at expatriates as well as at their receiving states?
The contribution first reviews the migration-related policies (or “no policies”) enacted by Arab governments to encourage the migration of their nationals to the Gulf region, and the rationale behind such policies. Since 2011, Arab states are indeed more eager than ever to increase the emigration of their citizens. Nationals’ unemployment rates went up in most countries after political instability led to economic downturn. Increasing the amount of remittances from expatriates to their families left behind, as well as a better fostering of money transfers are needed to stimulate domestic consumption, and would help compensating for the withdrawal of debt-ridden States from economic and social redistribution, along with a better channelling of expatriates’ investments. Moreover, as regimes became politically challenged, facilitating the “exit” of potential dissent through labour emigration is another imperative. Yet, political crises opposing sending and receiving countries affect Arab expatriates in the Gulf: following the various disputes between Egypt and Saudi Arabia, for instance over Sanafir and Tiran islands, Saudi Arabia announced measures to limit the numbers of Egyptians labourers in the Kingdom. Amid Gulf states’ fear of a spill over of regional conflicts to the GCC, tensions with Lebanon’s Hezbollah, similarly, backlashed on Lebanese Shiite expatriates in some Gulf countries. The contribution thus examines if, and how, sending states react to such moves and emigration policies are influenced by current political tensions. A further question could be whether the mostly skilled and highly-skilled profile of Arab migrants gives them enough agency to secure their employment abroad, thus undermining sending governments’ policy strategies and political stances. To conclude, the contribution argues that Arab migration policies underwent some changes since 2011; yet, the extent of their success or failure remains a subjective matter, due to structural characteristics of sending societies. Migrants and regimes may indeed not pursue common political goals: sending states’ societies are deeply divided, which hampers governments’ attempts at channelling migration flows and the maximising of their output for development. Besides, the current volatility of politics in the region threatens the long-term process of engineering migration for a sound development planning.