GRM 2010 GRM 2011

Abstract Details

Family Name:
First Name:
Title of Paper:
Resilient residents: migrants’ community and anti-migration policies in Saudi Arabia
Paper Proposal Text :
The Middle East is a region of intense mobility, both voluntary and forced. In the region, the six Gulf Cooperation Council countries (GCC) are the largest recipients of labour migrants in the world and have been a powerful magnet for regional migration since the beginning of tafra, the oil era. Arab, Asian and European migrants have converged to the Gulf countries bringing their social, gender, religious and political identity in countries like Qatar and the United Arab Emirates (UAE), where they ended up representing more than 80% of the countries population and 95% of the labour force in the UAE.
In the past two years, the Saudi State has launched aggressive initiatives to enhance the control of immigration and immigrants’ on the territory including biometric registration of migrants, new laws and regulation on labour immigration and residence, increased security measures at the borders and starting in November 2013, violent breakdown on “illegal” immigrants in Riyadh, Djeddah and other Saudi cities.
This paper aims at analysing the tension between the long lasting stance of the Saudi State promoting “anti-integration policies” designed to prevent the settlement of labour migrants and their families and the trends of community formation observed through both qualitative and quantitative data collection in Saudi Arabia.
This paradox is reinforced by aggressive anti-immigration policy implemented since 2011 and embodied by the Nov. 3 breakdown on irregular migrants.
The main findings of the paper concern the growing importance of long term residence of documented and undocumented migrants, contrary to popular discourses and representation of immigration as a short-term phenomenon. Recent data allow us to discuss the consequences of “incipient diasporas”(Myron Weiner) in the Gulf.
The durkheimian “social fact” of community formation contradicts the political and social models of the GCC countries that have designed migration as temporary with little of no prospect of legal integration, citizenship and permanent settlement, strongly emphasizing the social and spatial segregation of foreigners. Migration management by Gulf states is geared towards “anti integration” policies promoting urban segregation, little access to socio-economic rights and zero access to political rights .
Researchers have emphasized the efficiency of the segregation models, of patterns of social exclusion and xenophobia. But one of the premises of both research and political discourses on migration to the Gulf is that immigrants have very little interaction with their host societies, considering both the policy efforts of the GCC states and ‘the exceptional closure of local societies” .
Migration theory on the contrary has long been demonstrating the social impact of mobility on both host and home societies, and on migrants communities, looking both qualitatively and quantitatively at the consequences of material, cultural, financial, informational transfers on individuals and groups . Drawing on both quantitative and qualitative data this paper explores the dynamics of social, demographic, political and cultural change induced by long-term sojourn of immigrants in the Middle East with a particular focus on migrants’ communities in the GCC countries.