Global Migration & Politics
Analysis and commentary on the politics of the Middle East, of the power games that defines the region, and the economic, religious and ethnic problems the region is often facing.

Economy and identity in the Middle East migration flows

As the crisis between Saudi Arabia and Qatar recently sparked, Egypt became a question of economy: The country at the Nile was backed by Saudi Arabia sanctions, but it costs if 300,000 Egyptian guest workers do not send money every month home. Previously in the region, enormous migrant flows have been expelled from day to time. I look at the core of the Arabic identity and how workability can be a good, but also a struggle for crisis.

I’ve described in a previous blog post how Qatar has long been a thorn in the eyes of several of the region’s countries, primarily Saudi Arabia, because of the small emirat’s support for, among other things, the Muslim Brotherhood, the financing of Hamas and the Al Jazeera television channel.

In addition, the country houses an air base for approx. 10,000 US soldiers. If you, like Saudi Arabia, need to emphasize your own power post in the region, then it’s a relationship that not only promotes sympathy.

But other countries, including Egypt, have had a horn in Qatar. For Egypt, it is first and foremost about the television channel Al Jazeera, who followed a critical line to (current president) Abdel Fatah al-Sisi military coup in 2013, which overturned the Muslim Brotherhood. To support Saudi Arabia’s sabotage against Qatar is therefore right, even though this disposition can have dangerous economic consequences, especially for Egypt.

Middle East’s Great, Poor Cousin

For what range of other countries that support Saudi Arabia’s embargo on Qatar, airspace and land borders, mostly oily states – including Bahrain and the United Arab Emirates – Egypt is the poor cousin of the assembly.

Yemen, who also supports the action against Qatar, is of course even worse in financial terms, but here are a number of other issues that I will try to uncover in a later, separate blog post.

With 300,000 Egyptians in Qatar, who send money every month to Cairo, the question is whether Egypt can afford to play muscles with Qatar at all?

What Egypt is missing in oil revenues, the country is in population. With approx. 96 million inhabitants are the nation’s most nation-wide nation in the Middle East, and the third most populous state in Africa. In other words, there are many mouths to feed.

The oil boom in, among others, Saudi Arabia and the other Gulf States through the 1960s and 1970s opened an urgent need for labor. Here, Egypt appeared to be a highly-established supplier to the region, and has been there ever since. It is estimated that the country has about 6-7 million emigrants residing in other countries in the region who all send money home to the family in Egypt.

One of the country’s most important revenue sources is these transfers from abroad. This in itself is a major “industry” in the region. It is estimated that transfers from emigrants to home countries amount to at least $ 20 billion annually (about 130 billion dollars). An amount that far exceeds direct investment and development-supported projects.

The source of income from emigrants is actually Egypt’s biggest income, and although these money transfers are sent home to the family and thus into the private economy, they still help to consume consumption and thus contribute to the state economy.

With 300,000 Egyptians in Qatar, who send money every month to Cairo, the question is whether Egypt can afford to play muscles with Qatar at all?

It is estimated that between 800,000 – one million Yemenites, 200,000 Jordanians and 150,000 Palestinians were expelled from Saudi Arabia and the Gulf States, as a punishment for their homelands to support Iraq and its invasion of Kuwait, thus opposing Saudi Arabia and the United States

For what if Qatar should decide to expel the 300,000 – and their families? A not unlikely scenario at the edges where symbolism plays a major role. That being so practical would be inappropriate suddenly missing 300,000 in the workforce is another matter.

Crises hit the migrants first

It is estimated that there are approximately 20 million migrants in the region. A number to be taken with great reservations. It is probably higher because of illegal immigrants in several of the recipient countries, and does not include recent years of refugee flows from Syria. In other words, there are talk of large human flows that move around between the countries of the region.

Every time a new crisis or war originates in the region, it is usually the migrants who, as the first, pay the price. They are in a particularly vulnerable situation. Thus, the crisis with Qatar is not the first time, migrants are at risk of losing their livelihood and living base abroad.

When Iraq invaded Kuwait in 1990, many Iraqis had to flee rapidly from their country of residence Kuwait. But it also had consequences for other migrants in the rest of the region: It is estimated that between 800,000 – 1 million Yemenites, 200,000 Jordanians and 150,000 Palestinians were expelled from Saudi Arabia and the Gulf States as a punishment for their homelands to support Iraq and its invasion of Kuwait, and thus went against Saudi Arabia and the United States.

When migrants return home from the Gulf

The immediate positive economic impact that migrants can have with their return is quickly offset by the corresponding rising costs in school and health care and rising unemployment in the wake of this.

What can you do to create a common identity as “big family” when some family members are smelly rich and others are low-fat? How to create a shared identity with different assumptions

But not only the economy is affected by returning emigrants. The cultural influence of the Gulf States does not turn out to be denied by the returnees. In Egypt, the term “golfing” uses workers who have stayed in the Gulf because they bring the far more strict and conservative social norms and approaches from the Gulf to Cairo. A phenomenon that you do not look on with friendly eyes in Egypt.

The Arab Embroidery Spirit

The issue of migration in the Middle East is a delicate matter that affects many aspects of Arab identity, self-understanding and the issue of the Arab Brotherhood spirit.

This binds into something deeper than just questions about the free movement of workers within the region and transfers of cash flows from one rich brother country to another, poorer member of the family.

For what can you do to create a common identity as “big family” when some family members are smelly rich and others are low-fat? How to create a common identity with different assumptions.

And how do you treat immigrants? Apparently not as nice as you would like. First, the migrant flow seems to create new classes of society in the host countries.

National citizens can maintain their previous employment conditions, such as businessmen, merchants, etc., while migrants are awarded the far less attractive and far more difficult task. This is of course not a new phenomenon. It happens everywhere, even in the western world, that hard physical and not attractive work is allocated to migrants.

The crucial difference here is that the number of migrants far exceeds the number of nationals of the host country. It obviously creates a somewhat distinctive situation that can have major political consequences for a host country where the number of migrants can be 3-4 times greater than the number of nationals.

Secondly, immigrants do not have permanent residence rights or access to apply for citizenship in the host country. A residence permit can be withdrawn at any time, which all other things adds a high level of uncertainty for the individual migrant.

And here is the essence of the Arab identity itself and the question of brotherhood between the countries. For precisely the host countries’ handling of their immigrants, and their insistence on not allocating the workforce fundamental rights can put the germ into a turmoil, which in times of crisis is hard to overlook.

For how is it that, as a nation, you explain and legitimize the profound discrimination on own and foreign nationals? Especially when you as a nation, for example, invoke Islam as one’s credentials, as is the case with Saudi Arabia.

“Asiasation” of the migrant profile

If one believed that migration as a phenomenon in the region in the long term could bring the countries even closer together, it was enough, and some of these fragile skis may partly explain a recent trend in the Gulf States, namely an increasing “asiasation” of migrant flows.

For example, where Arab migrants, for example, in Kuwait accounted for 59 per cent. of the total foreign population group, they now account for less than 45 per cent. Out of 12.5 million migrants in the Gulf States, seven million are estimated to be from Asia, primarily from India, Pakistan and the Philippines.

Asian labor seems to be the preferred rather than the Arab, partly because Asian migrants are cheaper in pay and partly accept poor working conditions. But even more importantly, they are not considered to be a political danger for the host country. And one does not care so to relate to the question of the lack of equality of one’s so-called Arab brothers.

Translate »