Managing migrant labour in the Gulf: Transnational dynamics of migration politics since the 1930s
This paper looks at migration management in the Gulf monarchies since the 1930s. It describes the dynamics of labour import and immigration policies highlighting the hybrid nature of migration management. Migration trends and migrants’ lives are organised by public and private actors and institutions operating transnationally, between home and host countries. The economic determinants and the exploitative dimension of migration management have often been highlighted in the literature. This paper explores the patterns and politics of migration management at the domestic, regional and international level over time to identify changes and continuity. From the colonial premises to the 1970s and the oil boom, the patterns of labour import management proved consistent, shaping immigration as temporary and denying foreign workers socio-economic rights. The politics and the economics of migration management evolved over time, accounting for instance for a shift in the geography of labour import – from Arab migration to Asian migration. Since the 1990s however States and governments have sought to increase their control in the management of migration as migrants’ settlement emerged as a security concern in Gulf societies. Reforms adopted in the wake of the Arab Spring have further illustrated this trend, bringing the State back in the illiberal transnationalism of migration management and anti-immigrant policies.