The Arabist

The Arabist

By Issandr El Amrani and friends.

Posts tagged migration
On migration in the Mediterranean

There has been an odd meme spreading around since the tragic deaths of hundreds of migrants attempting to cross the Mediterranean over the last week. The idea, widely spread by the press and politicians, is that Libya is the source of all these problems. For example, in Politico:

One EU migration official spelled out just what would be needed to stop the flood of people seeking refuge in Europe.

“You have to stabilize the situation in the countries of origin,” she said. That means figuring out a way to return order to Libya, which has descended into civil war and chaos following the overthrow of Muammar Gaddafi’s dictatorship in 2011. That was the result of a NATO bombing campaign led by EU countries.

Libya is not the country of origin or the source of the migration, for the most part. It is a largely a transit country, and if you look at the country of origin of migrants you will see that many of them are not just economic migrants. Many, perhaps most, appear to be fleeing conflict zones or repressive regimes – Syria, Gaza, Somalia, Nigeria, Eritrea (where many migrants say they are escaping military service). So surely EU officials should be thinking about addressing the conflicts themselves, or at least the humanitarian crisis they engender? This seems to be particularly the case in Syria, since the humanitarian response (with chronic recurrent shortfalls in funding for refugee camps) has been largely inadequate.

The stats (for Italy) seem to bear this out:

 

The focus on Libya, while certainly warranted, gives the impression that if Libya had a strong government and was not in a state of complete chaos, the situation would be much better. Perhaps in terms of people trying to cross Europe. But the migrants would still be around, trying to come in through other routes or reaching other countries.

Below are some links collected on this issue.

  • Good piece in the Guardian, as well as this moving video from Syrians who made the trip across the sea:
  • Also in the Guardian, our friend Patrick Kingsley has an interesting report on smugglers in Zwara, in northwestern Libya, where many boats depart from. But the smugglers’ claim that if Berbers in the area had received better treatment they would not be smuggling is utter BS. And Europe editor Ian Traynor argues there is little the EU can actually do about it - it’s up to member states, not Brussels. Hakim Bello, a Nigerian who made the crossing, tells his story.
  • Some interesting report on what the EU is planning to do about the crisis on the new Politico Europe site, here and here. There will be a EU Council meeting on this Thursday ahead of a new migration policy expected to be adopted in May. And here is the EU’s 10-point plan to deal with the migrant crisis.
  • Good maps and infographics in the NYT.
  • Australian PM Tony Abbott advises the EU to turn back boats and not accept any migrants.
  • In the New Yorker, Mattathias Schwartz argues that EU restrictions on immigration are a bit like prohibition: “Like drug prohibition, it is a supply-side solution, and it is a failure.”
  • Bloomberg’s Leonid Bershidsky says a comprehensive resettlement program from conflict zones is needed, not just involving Europe.
  • Mixed Migration: Libya At The Crossroads - an extensive report by Altai.
Qatar: Where's the trust?

QATAR National Day

Jenifer Fenton sent in this dispatch from Doha, looking at the results of a recent survey and asking wider questions about the future of migration and expat communities in the Gulf.

Qataris have little trust in Western expatriates, was the headline many in Qatar took away from newly published research.

On a scale from 0 to 10, with 0 representing no trust and 10 complete trust, Qataris gave Western expatriates a 3.6, the lowest trust rating of any group excluding migrant laborers. Qataris trust other nationals (rating of 8); and Arab expatriates to a lesser degree (6.1), according to the report From Fareej To Metropolis.

“What Qataris have expressed is not different from what other people have expressed in other countries... We tend to trust and like people who are like us regardless of who we are,” said Darwish Al Emadi, Director of the Social and Economic Survey Research Institute (SESRI) at Qatar University which published the report. “British trust British people more than they trust non-British.”

However, white-collar respondents displayed high trust in Qataris (7.4). Migrant workers did as well.

Al Emadi’s research also found that "The more you interact with people, the more you trust them."

Segregated Ghetto

But in Qatar there is the limited interaction between the country’s population groups, which includes nationals, white-collar workers mainly from the Arab and Western worlds, and laborers from South and Southeast Asia. The three groups live in parallel worlds divided by invisible barriers.

“Although we all live in the same community we are living in ghettos, social ghettos,” Al Emadi said. “The interaction between Qataris and all types of expats, even the Arab expats, is really just related to the work place. We hardly ever interact at the house level.”

The lack of interactions between nationals and white-collar workers seems more acute in Doha than in Dubai or Abu Dhabi in the United Arab Emirates because the segregation of housing is perhaps more pronounced. Neighborhoods in Qatar “largely define and structure social interaction,” according to the report.

The wealthier tier of expatriates lives in employer-provided or employer-supported housing likely to be villas and apartments. “Qataris tend to live in neighborhoods with detached high-fenced housing in predominately Qatari neighborhoods where extended family members tend to live.” This is their desire. About 97 percent of Qataris preferred having other Qataris as neighbors; less than one percent indicated a preference for low-paid migrant workers in their neighborhoods. Laborers live in migrant camps mainly located outside of the city center. Late last year Qatar banned labor accommodations in residential areas.

UAE Zayed University anthropologist Jane Bristol-Rhys agreed that Qatar’s neighborhoods are more segregated than many in the Emirates, but she objected to assumptions that these invisible boundaries are put there purposefully in either country.

“These places are melting pots. There are over 200 nationalities in the Emirates in addition to Emiratis. Are people going to tend to socialize in groups where they work? Yes. But Interaction is not necessarily limited to nationality groups,” according to Bristol-Rhys, who has spent almost a decade interviewing foreign workers and Emiratis about the issue.

Limited Social Arenas

There are limited, although growing, areas for social interaction outside of work. Majlis, a social meeting usually sex-segregated, is the main leisure activity of Qataris, according to the SESRI report. Unsurprisingly expatriates do not report majlis in the list of preferred social activities. Rather they are involved in schools, charities, clubs and sports.

The segregation between the sexes restricts inter-mingling. During a meal at a Qataris home, the men and women would normally dine separately. This is “something you are not used to and probably something that you don’t want to do,” said Al Emadi. “We don’t want to do it your way either. At the end of the day both parties don’t like to give in on what they think is the right way of interaction. So they end up having their own separate things.”

Qatari women are also restricted in their relationships with men. It would “not be comfortable, not be acceptable,” to “hang-out” with men outside of a work or a school environment, said Muna Mohammed, a young professional Qatari woman. Her two friends agreed. The three said, however, that they have more foreign friends and acquaintances than their parents or older generations do.

Social interaction between low-paid migrant workers and other groups are near non-existent. On meager salaries, they cannot afford leisure coffees, movies or even taxi rides into town. Even if they could muster-up the money, most work very long hours with few days off a month. Bachelors are also banned from Qatar’s malls on certain days because of “family-only days” policies.

However Bristol-Rhys said it is not clear that a great number of these migrant workers, who often come from small villages, even want to socialize with other groups.

Qataris and migrant workers, who are from different countries but whose circumstances are relatively similar, are fairly homogenous group; while the third social group of “professional” workers contains many subgroups from different cultural and socio-economic backgrounds.

Often there is limited interaction between these subgroups, between Arab and Western expatriates, according to Al Emadi. "We...tend to interact with people who are like us. Who speak our language, who behave like us, have more of our values and so on."

Bristol-Rhys is not sure she agreed that we like people who are like us and said there are other contributing factors that may increase isolation. “Some people are not good cultural travelers. Even though they may have a job working here (UAE), it may not suit their personality to want to get to know another language or culture or even to interact.”

A Minority In Their Country

Because of rapid growth and development Qatar and the other Gulf countries have a large migrant population. Some 1.8 million people live in Qatar, but only a few hundred thousand are citizens. The country has the highest global ration of migrants to citizens, according to the World Bank. The UAE ranks third. All of the Gulf countries are in the [top 30] (http://siteresources.worldbank.org/INTPROSPECTS/Resources/334934-1199807908806/Top10.pdf).

Twenty-five percent of respondents answered yes to “Are there too many expats in the UAE?” in a recent (unscientific) poll on The National's website (screenshot).

Debates about “too many foreigners,” “price of modernizing” and “preservation of national culture” are of course nothing new. Khalid Al Ameri, an Emirati commentator, wrote:

You can only imagine how strange it must be for people who have a hard time integrating into their own society. It would be frustrating for anyone, in his or her home country, to see the presence of indigenous culture dwindle.

It is also true that Qatar and the UAE need foreign workers to develop their countries. There are simply not enough nationals to do it. “We don’t have the knowledge, we don’t have the numbers,” Qatar University's Al Emadi said. It would be difficult to operate a single sector in the country without migrant workers. “If we wanted to run the hospital by ourselves, just Qataris, we probably could not do it. We don’t have enough nurses. We don’t have enough doctors.”

Lowly-paid migrant workers are not exclusive to the developing Gulf countries. “It seems like every country in the world has a population they don’t want to talk about that does the dirty work,” Bristol-Rhys said. There were successive waves of migrant groups to the United States who did the “crap” jobs no one else wanted to do - the Irish, the Jews and of course not forgetting enslaved blacks. “This is not uniquely a Gulf problem it just seems so just because of the sheer magnitude of it - because these (migrant) populations seriously outnumber the citizens.”

There is the argument that migrants to the U.S. and Europe can eventually become citizens of the nations in which they work, and this is something unlikely to happen in the Gulf anytime soon - if ever.

Path to citizenship?

If Qatar were to open up a greater path to citizenship, which is severely restricted and almost 100 percent hereditary, Qatari nationals feel they would become a minority with minority rights in their own country, Al Emadi said. Now Qataris are clearly the minority, but they are the ones with the greatest rights.

But migration to Gulf countries is done for different reasons than to the U.S. or Europe. “Are we beginning with the premise that all expatriates want to have Qatari or Emirati passport?,” Bristol-Rhys asked. Most people move to these countries to improve their lives at home, to put their children through schools, to buy a home or to fatten their pension funds. “Everyone who comes here knows this is not a place for immigration. This is not a place you would migrate to become a citizen."

Europe, still rudderless in the Arab world

The FT has an interesting piece today about the (still distant) possibility that the Schengen system, which allows for free passage throughout 25 of the EU's 27 member-states, might be dismantled. There's been rising concern about immigration in many European states for several years, but it partly has to do with the Arab spring. Specifically, with the drastic increase of Tunisian illegal migrants making to Lampedusa island, just off Tunisia but belong to Italy, in recent months. 

The EU tried to do away with such obstacles in its 1995 Schengen agreement for visa-free travel, which the bloc hails as one of its proudest achievements. Yet populist concerns about immigration, heightened by an economic crisis and the upheaval in north Africa, have given rise to new demands to strengthen internal and external borders across Europe.

Tensions have been highest in the EU’s Mediterranean member states, particularly France and Italy, to which most of an estimated 30,000 north African migrants have fled since January. Both countries have demanded the right to introduce temporary internal border controls. 

 Denmark also reinstated guards and spot checks this week along its borders. Although Denmark is far from north Africa, its populist Danish People’s party pressed for the border crackdown as part of wider negotiations with the coalition government on economic reforms.

The French and Italians have been fighting over this recently, as the FT reported last month, as they face pressure from the far-right (and pay the price of their own right-wing leaders — Berlusconi and Sarkozy — making anti-immigration rhetoric part and parcel of their political discourse.)

It's hardly surprising to see the French and Italians — among the most ruthlessly self-serving Western countries when it comes to foreign policy (they loved Qadhafi when he was powerful, and are now busy making deals with the rebels since he appeared weak) — resort to this talk. But that it strikes a deeper chord in the EU at large is telling. The EU has been grasping with positive symbolic responses to the Arab spring. Brussels has circulated a measly new plan for supporting civil society (some €10 million has been earmarked, a pitiful sum) in response, full of the usual technocratic language. But there has been no coherent political or diplomatic response, never mind a reassessment of the last decade of policy towards the likes of Ben Ali and Mubarak. This is despite a wide range of policy literature criticizing these policies from places like FRIDE or suggestions from recent reports like this one on EU policy towards Egypt.

Here's another expert who has scathing words:

Today, EU governments see the challenge primarily as one of demography. European governments may talk about democracy and practically every European leader has enjoyed a walk through the banner-clad Tahrir Square. But when they return home, shake the sand off their trousers and start thinking of their voters, their thoughts quickly turn to managing the flow of illegal immigrants who dream of a better life in Europe.

This is particularly true of the governments of France, Italy, Portugal, Greece, Malta, Cyprus and Spain. These "Club Med" states could, if they took advantage of their connections and understanding, be the driving force behind a constructive European policy towards the new north Africa. But in reality they have been driven by a fear of migrants and being outflanked politically on the right by their opponents (in France) or their partners (Italy). Back in the early 1990s, when the Balkans was ablaze, these countries were willing to take thousands of refugees. Today, France and Italy are locked in an argument about a much smaller numbers of Tunisians and threaten to tear down the Schengen agreement, which created Europe as a borderless area, in the process. This is against a backdrop of declining numbers of asylum applications across Europe over the past decade – in particular, UNHCR reports a drop of 33% in applications in southern EU member states between 2009 and 2010.

The concerns about migration that come with Club Med's historical connections and geographical proximity to north Africa have prevented EU policy from advancing. There has, in fact, been little substantive debate within these nations about their policies; Italy's first concern has been the thousands of immigrants arriving on Lampedusa while Spain's concerns include managing an already large Moroccan diaspora. The rest is rhetoric.

And in the meantime, from Brussels and most European capitals we mostly hear technocratic mumbo-jumbo. Yes, it's true the EU gives a lot of money to Arab countries like Morocco or Egypt. But the money is often wasted because there is no political discourse that accompanies it (unless it's from a few countries like Sweden, which however has little influence in the Middle East). It's not just a matter of conditionalities or policy orientation. The problem is bigger: it's a lack of moral imagination, an incapacity to think of the teeming hordes (as the politicians speak of them) beyond the Mediterranean as anything else than a problem.

Links for Dec.21.09 to Dec.23.09
Middle East Online | The End of Brotherly Love? | Tarek Kahlaoui on the Egyptian MB.
The Israel Lobby and the Prospects for Middle East Peace « P U L S E | Lectures by Stephen Walt.
Israeli Organ Trafficking and Theft: From Moldova to Palestine | Investigation by Washigton Report.
Doctor admits Israeli pathologists harvested organs without consent | World news | The Guardian | Unbelievable.
Israel gives response to Hamas prisoner swap offer | "Israel relayed its response to the proposed swap and handed over a list of Palestinians it wants exile."
* Jimmy Carter to U.S. Jews: Forgive me for stigmatizing Israel - Haaretz - Israel News | WTF?
* The Fascination of Israel – Forward.com | Review of three books on Israel.
* «Il y a 40.000 Chinois en Algérie» | 40,000 Chinese in Algeria, 2000 Algerians in China.
* Meedan | Moroccan and Jordanian forces join Saudi offensive against Houthis. | Handle with care, chief source appears to be Spanish press.
* In Shift, Oren Calls J Street ‘A Unique Problem’ – Forward.com | Israel ambassador ramps up the attack on new lobby.
* IRIN Middle East | EGYPT-ISRAEL: Perilous journey to the promised land | Middle East | Egypt Israel | Migration Refugees/IDPs | Feature | On sub-Saharan migration to Israel via Egypt.
* Palestinians shoot at Egypt | Response to the collapsing of tunnels that have claimed many Palestinian lives?
* Egypt's ailing cotton industry needs shake-up | Reuters | Industry risks a "slow death."
* Middle East Report Online: Broken Taboos in Post-Election Iran by Ziba Mir-Hosseini | On the Green Movement and gender issues.
Egypt rebukes Hamas over 'foot-dragging' in Palestinian reconciliation - Israel News, Ynetnews | Omar Suleiman:
Suleiman said Egypt had promised Hamas it would address the terror group's reservations vis-à-vis the reconciliation deal "after they sign and begin to implement it." He said Hamas' concerns "lacked substance," adding that the agreement would not be revised. "If it will (be changed), I'll resign," said Suleiman.
Links for Dec.08.09 to Dec.09.09

Les voix de la nation : chanson, arabité et caméléonisme linguistique | Culture et politique arabes | Very interesting post on Arab singers adopting accents and styles of different countries -- has great clip of Abdel Halim Hafez trying out a traditional Kuwaiti song.


✩ Comment l’Algérie a exporté sa « sale guerre » au Mali : Algérie-Maroc | How Algeria exported its dirty war to Mali: AQIM conspiracies.


Fatwa Shopping « London Review Blog | On Nakheel and Islamic finance.


The women who guard other women in conservative Egypt | On female bodyguards.


Yemen’s afternoon high - Le Monde diplomatique | On the drug Qat.


US Congress frets over anti-Americanism on TV in Mideast | The leading inciter of anti-Americanism in the ME is Congress itself, when it keeps voting for wars for Israel.


Baladna English | New newspaper launched in Syria, but nothing on its site yet.


EU Action Plan on combating terrorism | Document on EU CT strategy.


What the US Elite Really Thinks About Israel « P U L S E | Most Council of Foreign Relations members think US favors Israel too much - v. interesting analysis of foreign policy expert poll by Jeffrey Blankfort.


‘The Battle for Israel’s Soul’ – Channel 4 on Jewish fundamentalism « P U L S E | British documentary on Jewish fundamentalism.


BBC News - Dubai crisis sparks job fears for migrant workers | On South Asians in Dubai.


FT.com / Comment / Opinion - Israel must unpick its ethnic myth | Tony Judt.


The Interview Ha’aretz Doesn’t Want You To See « P U L S E | Interview Ali Abunimah not published by Haaretz.


Attention Christmas Shoppers: Top Ten Brands to Boycott | Sabbah Report | Brands to boycott at Christmas.


FT.com / Middle East / Politics & Society - Egypt’s media warn ElBaradei off politics | On the campaign against ElBaradei.


✩ Flourishing Palestinian sex trade exposed in new report - Haaretz | Amira Hass: "Young Palestinian women are being forced to into prostitution in brothels, escort services, and private apartments in Ramallah and Jerusalem..."

Links for 09.10.09 to 09.11.09
Al-Ahram Weekly | Egypt | Made to measure | Interesting Amira Howeidy article on Egyptian television, notably Naguib Sawiris' face-off with Ibrahim Eissa on the former's new TV show!
Khaleej Times Online - Egypt school start delayed week in swine flu fear | While swine flu infections are spreading, this decision may be as much as leaving school until after Ramadan than a medical threat, IMHO.
Reuters AlertNet - Egypt: Stop Killing Migrants in Sinai | HRW Statement on shootings at the border with Israel, referencing recent al-Masri al-Youm article with killer quotes on issue.
Democracy, Tunisian style | Brian Whitaker | Comment is free | guardian.co.uk | Brian Whitaker engages in my favorite sport, Tunisia-bashing, pointing that Tunisia's much-vaunted stability comes at the price of a presidency for life.
Dennis Ross, Bill Burns, Berman talk Iran with Jewish leaders conference (UPDATED) - Laura Rozen - POLITICO.com | For big push on Iran sanctions (and more?) by Jewish-American orgs.
Last gasp for global Islam « Prospect Magazine | Review of a "woe-is-us" book by former Iraqi PM Ayad Allawi on Islam.
aktub | Free Arabic typing tutor.

Links for 07.21.09
Israel weighs confiscation of more Palestinian land - Haaretz - Israel News | In other words, trend set in past 40 years set to continue, despite what Bibi says, unless more forceful action is taken.
BM News: American troops expected in Egypt this September « Bikya Masr | 425 National Guard troops expected to be stationed near Rafah.
Apollo astronauts advocate trip to Mars - Bring the Tang | I love the space program, even thought it might be pretty pointless in the end. But can't we seize all the assets of Goldman Sachs and use them to build a rocket for Mars? Come on...
Saudi Authorities Arrest Over 65,000 Illegal Immigrants in Three Months |
Riyadh, Asharq Al-Awsat- The Saudi Security apparatus has revealed that it has arrested over 65,000 illegal immigrants and 1,084 smugglers attempting to illegally enter Saudi Arabia during the second

Internationally Recognised Core Labour Standards In Morocco | WTO report on labor issues in Morocco.
Make no little plans - The National Newspaper | On NYU's plans to open a school in Abu Dhabi as part of "global network university" and questions about academic freedom in the Gulf.

Links December 19th and January 5th

Automatically posted links for December 19th through January 5th: