The information highlights the need for migrants’ rights in Saudi Arabia, Kuwait, and Oman.
It may be difficult, when distracted by the excessive wealth and extravagant architecture of the Arab Gulf states, to remember that these modern marvels were built on the backs of millions of migrants. It is impossible to become nationalized in these countries and Gulf states’ laws function to deport and detain migrants, rather than to facilitate legal immigration. Migrant Rights, a Bahrain-based advocacy organization working to highlight the plight of migrants in the Middle East, released this incredible interactive infographic detailing the stark realities of migrants in Saudi Arabia, Kuwait, and Oman.
“Mass deportations are nothing new in the Gulf. Almost cyclically, hundreds of thousands of migrant workers are deported in mass raids purported to expel visa violators, illegals, and other criminals,” said Rima Kalush, a researcher at Migrant Rights. “The past year and a half is one of these upswings, accompanied by propaganda campaigns that paint migrants as threats to society.”
These countries control their foreign populations with a kafala, or sponsorship, system, which requires incoming migrants to be sponsored by an employer. If they lose their jobs, they get deported, which means migrant workers are vulnerable to the whims of exploitative companies. Many employers even lock away their passports, so they can’t “run away” (or what most people call “quit their jobs”).
In efforts to reduce the migrant population, these countries impose and enforce deportation quotas. According to the Migrant Rights infographic, Oman intends to reduce its migrant population by 6 percent, which accounts for 200,000 expats. Saudi Arabia has a five-year plan to shrink the foreign population by 600,000 people.
“Our infographic highlights both detention and deportation as they tend to be entwined. Those captured in raids or otherwise imprisoned can be detained indefinitely,” says Kalush. “But in reality, those deported are amongst the most marginalized in these societies. By law and practice, low-income migrants lack basic rights and are often deprived of any meaningful access to justice. “