Migration Experiences of Temporary Migrants in the Gulf Council Cooperation (GCC) States: The Case of the Kingdom of Bahrain and Dubai (in the United Arab Emirates)

Migration Experiences of Temporary Migrants in the Gulf Council Cooperation (GCC) States: The Case of the Kingdom of Bahrain and Dubai (in the United Arab Emirates)

By Raj Bardouille, PhD, Migration and Development Researcher, Centre for Refugee Studies, York University, Toronto, Canada

23 November 2013, 5 p.m. (IST)

Talk on skype

Room No-13, JNU



This paper is a work in progress and draws on the field work done in April 2008 in Bahrain and Dubai. The main objective of the paper is to capture the migration experiences of temporary migrants (the official terms being guest workers) in these two States.

International migration involves the movement of people (migrants) from one country (origin/ source/sending) to another country (destination or receiving/host country). While the experience of migration in sending countries has been studied extensively (in terms of remittances and other financial transfers, non-financial transfers such as social and human capital, trade in nostalgic or ethinic goods and services, etc. ), and to some extent also in receiving countries, however, research studies on the migration experience of migrants themselves are scanty. This paper attempts to make a modest contribution to this aspect in the case of Bahrain and Dubai.

The paper contextualizes migration to Gulf States as part of global migration trends, as the increasing number of people, especially since the latter part of the 20th century, have been on the move in quest for better economic opportunities and in response to the lack of rewarding job and income opportunities in migrants’ home countries.  In analysing the migration experiences of the temporary migrants, the paper alludes to the unique recruiment system (the kafala or sponsorship) put in place in the GCC States for employing temporary foreign workers . This system was developed by the GCC States as a mechanism for managing the migration process, in terms of how many migrants can come into the country, for how long and the strict conditions for nationality, permanent residence, and citizenship. With this kind of a migration policy, foreign workers are perceived and treated as mere providers of labour and when not needed, their contracts can be revoked or not renewed, and they are subject to deportation. In this context, analysis of migrants’ experiences in the GCC countries is limited to those related to their labour.

Drawing on the information collected through unsructured interviews of some 25 temporary migrants working in semi/unskilled jobs in these two states, the paper recounts their migration experiences, which are quite mixed. The paper concludes that temporary migrants are well aware of the temporary nature of their work and residence in the Gulf countries, they come with specific goals and expectations (e.g. saving enough money to build a house, a business back home or sending their children to college etc.) before coming to the GCC countries.  Once their goals are fulfilled or nearly achieved, some migrants are eager to go back home or may move to another Gulf country.  As they are guest workers and are welomed in the GCC country only for the time their sponsor needs them, the insecure nature of their employment and residence status make them highly vulnerable to expoitation, and the abuse of their labour and human rights.

Time and Place:

Date:   Saturday, Nov 23, 2013
Venue:   CSSS II, JNU
Address:   CSSS II, JNU
City/Twon:   New Delhi
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