Friday, June 21, 2013

The kinds of migrant workers in the Gulf region

Globalization of the world economy has led to increased inter connectivity among different countries. People are able to move from country to the other without many difficulties. Millions of people leave their own homes every year to go to other countries in search of employment opportunities. Increased population growth and harsh economic conditions in some parts of the world drives people to more developed nations in search of better living conditions. This has had both negative and positive impacts to the host communities and migrants.
The number of people crossing borders to foreign nations in search of human security and financial opportunities is expected to continue increasing in the future. The world community is therefore required to develop necessary skills, policies and resources to deal with these issues. The Gulf region is one of the areas that is most affected by an influx of migrant workers. This essay seeks to discuss various kinds of migrant workers that come to the Gulf region for employment and evaluate whether they are exploited.

The Gulf region has witnessed an unprecedented influx of people from different parts of the world over a few decades ago (Connell & Burgess, 2011). This is mainly due to the rapid economic growth in the region. Most countries within this region have recorded high economic growth than the rest of the world. This enables them to create more job opportunities. People from under-developed countries have been attracted by this economic growth to enter the region in search of better living conditions. Migrants are able to sell their labor within the region at a better rate compared to their home countries. They are also able to gain experience and acquire new skills in the process of working. There are about 20,000 million migrant workers within the Gulf region most of which moved into the region in the 1970s (Zhou & Sun, 2010).

They mostly consist of single workers of Asian, African and Arabian origin. Although they come from different backgrounds, they both share common woes. The salaries of migrant workers are kept low by inflations and the laws that have been implemented to protect the rich. The increased population has worsened their living conditions. Most of the migrant workers are normally engaged in manual labor which makers them vulnerable to lifestyle diseases such as diabetes, high cholesterol and blood pressure (Joshi et al, 2011). The Arab and Asian migrants come from joint family systems in which they are breadwinners for the large families. The low salaries paid to them and the ever increasing expenses from their homes make it difficult for them to live a comfortable life. Long separation from their families and the public makes them stressed.

¬ Following various investigations, it has come to the realization that there is great exploitation of the migrant workers through he poor polices and laws that have been passed in the United Arab Emirates (Murray, 2012). It is said that the policies have grown to become more repressive than accommodative for the migrant workers despite criticism ,the authorities have failed to seriously consider the issues as laid ion the table an instead have continue to suppress the law makers so as not address the plight of the workers. The UAE has failed to address the issues as regards the right to freedom of expression since they were previously not allowed to vote in the election of the country and neither could they be involved in the making of laws for the country, In a bid to be heard however, many of them were arrested and prosecuted in what was termed as insulting the rulers of the country.

This is just but an introduction to the many challenges these people face in their quest to work in the gulf. They are subjected to very harsh punishments that see most of them detained for no reason and then consequently executed. This was highlighted in the issue of the New Yorker where it was also alleged that a Sri Lankan maid who was working in the Saudi Arabia kingdom was implicated to death for the death of an infant. Eventually, she was sentenced to death for a crime that was reportedly not committed after all.

The maids in theses countries are also subjected to a series of abuse and overwork under conditions where they are not a t peace following their overly suspicious bosses. It has been purported that through the system of the work relations known as “kafala”. In this case, the “kafeel” as commonly known in Arabic to equate to a boss or employer sponsors all the travel arrangements of the employee under the system (Connell & Burgess, 2011). However, under the system, the worker can only work for the employer that sponsored their travel arrangements and upon arrival, their travel documents are ceased therefore leaving the workers with little or no protection. In this case therefore, when they are mistreated by their employers, they cannot be able to escape and thus are forced to endure the hard working conditions that they are constantly forced with. On the other hand also, the employers are guaranteed that the workers will not leave and in this case, treat them without an ounce of humanity.

Upon arrival in the Arab countries especially in the case of women, they are usually subjected in trafficking and exploitation. It is stated that once the workers arrive in the country they generally disappear. They are generally put away from the public limelight so that the employer can have all the time to mistreat and to isolate them, they re then exposed to a series of sexual abuse and violation, a series of psychological torture through being denied a right to eat (Dinkha & Dakhli, 2009). The workers are also subjected to debt bondage where they are forcefully placed into servitude. This is due to the fact that they are very highly charged in regards to changing jobs by the placement agencies. In order to cover the fess that were used for them in term of recruitment and placement a large portion of their salaries is deducted. This only forces them to stay longer due to the desire to earn a living or a substantial income from their employer.

The police on the other hand are not helping matters. Those that may desire to run away thinking that they may find help from the law enforcers are actually at a higher risk than those that don’t. Instead o the police being of help to them they subject the women to a series of crime like raping them and finally returning them to their scrupulous employers, in the country of Lebanon, if one runs away, they are faced with the risk of loosing their legal status. However, their embassies, especially that of the Ethiopians has failed to offer any assistance to their ever increasing problems. Instead it has played a deaf ear to them. This forces them to live a hidden and neglected life outside the knowledge of their embassies.

Sound migration policies have been implemented by many countries to control foreign labor (Priest, 2012). These policies do not allow countries to maximize the benefits that a re received from international labor migration. Both the country of origin and receiving countries have their own regulations on labor mobility. Several regional and international organizations have been established to regulate labor mobility and fight for better working conditions. Despite the fact that policies have been put in place to govern foreign labor, there are no proper mechanisms of protecting the quality of life, security of individuals and comfort. The Gulf Arab countries have been reported to be oppressing migrant workers the go to the region for employment. The passports of migrant workers are unlawfully confiscated by their employers to prevent them from leaving the country. The wages are also withheld against the wish of employees and they are exploited by various unscrupulous employment agencies. Some of the workers are also held up in prolonged detention when then attempt to escape from the abusive employers. The migrant workers are not able to access the judicial recourse and the necessary remedies for their problems.

The Gulf region is the leading producer and exporter of oil in the world. The oil has enabled it to record a rapid economic growth which has attracted millions of blue collar migrants. Most of the people crossing into the Gulf for employment come from Asian countries and majority of them are employed in construction sites or in homes as domestic maids. Sponsorship systems have been put in place within most of the Gulf countries allowing companies and nationals to hire a large number of migrant workers that depend on their employers for shelter and food. This program has gained popularity within the Gulf as many agencies are engaged in importation of foreign labor from various parts of the world. Many workers complain that the employers and agencies confiscate their passports and other travelling documents for the entire contract duration. The employers also do not pay the migrants on a regular basis and some of them deduct health or housing costs from the pay.

Some of the Gulf countries like Bahrain have started doing away with the sponsorship system and others like Kuwait are changing their labor laws by and introducing minimum wages in order to improve the working conditions of foreign workers. However, Saudi Arabia which is the leading producer of oil in the world is yet to make any labor reforms. Saudi Arabia has a total of about 7 million foreign workers but there is a lot of resistance among business organizations that benefit from the sponsorship system (Dinkha & Dakhli, 2009). Despite its resistance to labor reforms, Saudi Arabia seldom draws criticism from Western countries because it is a vital global oil supplier. The country is very rich and it plays a key political role in the volatile Middle East region. The migrant workers in the Gulf are voiceless and the most exploited members of the community.
Some of the workers are the second or third generation inhabitants but they are still mistreated. Over eighty percent of the total population in Qatar and UAE is made up of the migrant workers. Two thirds of the population in Kuwait is also made up of foreign laborers. They also account for a significant percentage of the population in Saudi Arabia, Oman and Bahrain. Although illegal migrants in other parts of the world have been engaging in protests to demand for their rights, the migrant workers in the Gulf have never voiced their concerns openly.

The migrant workers, commonly referred to as expatriates in the Gulf, are faced with many challenges (Murray, 2012). The sponsorship system (Kafala system) adopted in most of the countries ends up exploiting the employees. The workers` visas are normally tied to the sponsors or employers. The workers and the Kafala system cannot change jobs and they are only allowed to leave the country for a mandated period of time. Most of the migrant workers in the Gulf are laborers consisting of construction workers, cab drivers and maids. The passports are intentionally withheld and payment is not given on a regular basis in order to prevent the workers from seeking employment elsewhere. Most countries in the Gulf region do not tolerate union formation and worker strikes despite the grievances being faced.

The house servants face the most difficulties among the workers. The live-in maids are normally exposed to mental and physical abuse (Jarallah, 2009). Their working schedules are made up of twelve-hour days and these may increase during the Ramadan fast. The workers normally have greater responsibilities during the month of Ramadan because of the festivities involved. The employers also withhold their wages and deny them compensation so that they cannot leave. The workers are forced to stay behind closed doors hence they do not interact with the outside world. Despite many concerns that have been raised about the issue, there is no clear way of proving the allegations. The authorities investigating such claims often side with employers hence no action is taken. Employees that attempt to escape are arrested and charged for absconding which can amount to a criminal violation of their visa terms.

Even as low-class laborers are exploited in the Gulf region, professional and middle class migrants are lured to the region through enticements like high salaries, luxury living and professional advancement. They enjoy good working conditions and freely trade their political rights for the economic possibilities. The Gulf governments allow this group of expatriates a lot of freedom on social practices as long as they do not have any political significance. The discrimination of workers has rained to be a big problem in the region. The low-paid laborers are often exploited by their employers and agencies while professionals and members of the middle class are treated well. This has led to a mixture of reactions among the workers and various authorities. As laborers raise their voices claiming that they are oppressed, their professional and middle class counterparts are enjoying good working conditions. Some of the laborers are also held up in prolonged detention when then attempt to escape from the abusive employers. The migrant workers are not able to access the judicial recourse and the necessary remedies for their problems.

The United Arab Emirates (UAE) has been widely criticized for oppression of migrant workers. About 95 percent of the workforce in the UAE is made up of migrant workers (Jureidini, 2010). Although the UAE government has welcomed efforts to improve the working conditions of migrant laborers, many employers within the country still do not comply with the codes of conduct and labor standards. Labor camps have been established comprising of free internet, satellite TV and gyms but they are very few. The situation is worsened by the fact that most of the migrant workers are ignorant of their legal rights and the law. They are easily manipulated and scared by their employers. The migrant workers in the Gulf are also marginalized in the society. In the UAE, for instance, the hierarchical structure is arranged in such a way that there is very little room for interaction between various social strata. The labor camps are invisible to members of the public and there is no common space for locals, visitors and expatriates. This keeps the expatriates in darkness of what is taking place in the outside world.

There are many single workers in the Gulf most of them doing manual jobs while others working as professionals and businessmen. Although the expatriate businessmen did not enter the region with business visas; they sported opportunities in the market and capitalized on them. Only expatriates who earn a specific amount of wage are allowed to bring their families to stay with them. People who cannot afford sponsoring their families are normally referred to as bachelors even if they are married. This makes most of the workers to suffer from singleness. They a re also subjected to inequalities due to their low social class. The plight of several migrant workers living in the Persian Gulf region has sparked widespread concerns across the world for many years (Naufal, 2011). The construction and economic boom within the region has led to an increase in foreign labor. Most of the laborers working in the Gulf come from South-East Asia and Asia.

The migrant workers in the Gulf are voiceless and the most exploited members of the community. Some of the workers are the second or third generation inhabitants but they are still mistreated. The workers` visas are normally tied to the sponsors or employers. The workers and the Kafala system cannot change jobs and they are only allowed to leave the country for a mandated period of time (Castles, 2011). Most of the migrant workers in the Gulf are laborers consisting of construction workers, cab drivers and maids. Despite the fact that policies have been put in place to govern foreign labor, there are no proper mechanisms of protecting the quality of life, security of individuals and comfort. The Gulf Arab countries have been reported to be oppressing migrant workers the go to the region for employment. The passports of migrant workers are unlawfully confiscated by their employers to prevent them from leaving the country. The wages are also withheld against the wish of employees and they are exploited by various unscrupulous employment agencies.



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