Monday, November 26, 2007

Bahrainis seek immigration reform

The Arab Gulf states have their own immigration problems. Bahrain and the United Arab Emirates have proposed a six year residency limit for foreign workers. The Bahraini labour minister believes that most of the foreign workers in his country cannot assimilate or adapt because of their cultural and social backgrounds. He recently complained that:

In some areas of the Gulf, you can't tell whether you are in an Arab Muslim country or in an Asian district. We can't call this diversity and no nation on earth could accept the erosion of its culture on its own land.

I can't fault the Bahraini minister for acting to conserve his own culture. However, the situation in the Gulf does raise some further questions.

For instance, if the Bahraini minister believes that non-Muslims cannot adapt or assimilate to an Arab Muslim culture, then the same difficulty of assimilation must also occur when Arab Muslims seek residence in foreign countries. If mutual adaptation or assimilation isn't possible in Bahrain, then why would it be possible in France or Finland?

Also, if the Gulf states are so dependent on foreign labour (there are currently 14 million foreign workers in the Gulf), and if this labour force is thought to be too foreign to assimilate or adapt, then why are Middle Eastern refugees being sent to all the way to the West rather than to the nearby Gulf states? The Gulf states are very wealthy and are very much in need of a more assimilable labour force. It would seem to be a good match.


  1. "no nation on earth could accept the erosion of its culture on its own land."

    He needs to tell that to the Somali Muslim who recently told me that in America we had no right to demand the preservation of any distinct culture. I asked her, "To which Muslim country does this rule apply?" and of course she had no answer.

  2. Excellent point. Why come all the way to Australia when they can earn more in the Gulf? And an infinitely more compatible match.

  3. Sage, Michael thanks for the comments.

    When I wrote that if assimilation wasn't possible in Bahrain then it wouldn't be in France either I didn't know what was about to happen in Paris.

    North African Muslim migrants are rioting in the streets, firing on police officers. 80 police have been injured so far.

  4. The Bahraini's comment does excite the imagination (argument-wise) but liberals in America would say simply that *we have no particular culture*. This is the nexus of the problem-- we are well on our way to such a state, more as a mental construct than "actually", but nevertheless the notion of a national culture is nebulous at best for many.

  5. Actually, many of the Gulf states do allow Lebanese and Palestinian refugees to come and work in their countries. For the wealthier states, only a minority of the population consists of nationals.

    There is one difference however: we give our refugees citizenship, nations like Saudi Arabia and UAE do not.