GRM 2010 GRM 2011

Abstract Details

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Migration from the Horn of Africa to the Gulf and Back
Paper Proposal Text :
This paper will assess our understanding of migrations between the Horn of Africa and the Gulf region, long a space of human movement and interaction. Yet modern labor demands, widening economic inequalities between the two regions and contemporary geopolitical relations all mean a changing and more contested pattern of interaction. I analyze here the general contours of this migration, attempting to outline the types of movement, usually economic, religious and political in nature. I argue that states and citizens in these regions differ in their interpretations of these relationships, however, and are at odds over how to facilitate and at times regulate these movements in ways that respect human rights and human dignity. The drivers of the out-migration differ: Eritreans often seek to escape harsh domestic political conditions, while Ethiopians generally seek greater economic opportunity. Similarly, Gulf regimes have different expectations of the labor skills and location of workers, as well as their personal rights and economic protections. These patterns are also gendered and generational, with young women with sharply limited economic prospects in Ethiopia leaving for the Gulf in large numbers, facing great challenges once abroad. What is the role and responsibility of “sending” governments to their citizens? Discourse on the topic has generally focused on “hosting” states and their citizens, but Ethiopia and Eritrea may act in irresponsible ways with respect to protecting their citizens. The recent large-scale repatriation of undocumented Ethiopians from Saudi Arabia and the ensuing protests in Ethiopia and abroad provide just one contemporary example of a migratory pattern with a long history. I am particularly interested in exploring in this paper the micro-politics of these migrations, particularly how the migrants themselves understand “responsibility” for protection in these contexts.