Let's not be blinded by the "bright side"

Share Find us on Twitter Find us on Facebook Find us on ... Share this via email
Jun 12 2013

Statements made at last month’s International Conference on Labour Mobility in Dubai demonstrate that official narratives continue to deny the systematic nature of migrant exploitation. Gulf News summarized one presentation in particular which called for the focus to shift to the "bright side of migration," and proceeded to denigrate the validity of reports delineating the structural causes of migrant exploitation. GCC states disparage repeated documentation of abuse as "anecdotal" to delegitimize calls for reform, unapologetically belittling migrant worker experiences; most recently, the UAE attempted to undercut the ILO's trafficking report by claiming that situations of forced labor were based on qualitative data that could not be extrapolated to the country or region at large. Yet GCC states themselves often obstruct quantitative analysis by failing to collect critical data and failing to ensure the accessibility of any statistics that are maintained. Mechanisms for reporting abusive or exploitative conditions and consequently aggregating more accurate data are furthermore obstructed by the poor implementation of reporting mechanisms.

The presenter endeavored to study "the true effects" of migration to the UAE on 2,727 Indian households across 10 states of India, suggesting that all previous research on the effects of migrant workers was “inaccurate.” He concluded that “concerns about over-indebtedness, regret, and unrealised aspirations should be regarded as anecdotal rather than systematic. "

Proposing that one survey conducted in one country discounts years of research conducted by multiple organizations and stakeholders endeavors to endorse less scrutiny of GCC practices. The volume of negative "anecdotes" in reports produced by a broad cross-section of organizations and individuals evidence that the framework of migration and employment facilitate exploitation. Criticism of the migration system does not suggest that all migrants face precarious conditions, but rather that GCC states fail to implement effective protections to combat regular abuse. The numerical majority of migrants may not face conditions of forced labor or life-threatening issues, but the GCC's migration system overwhelmingly hinges the likelihood of a fair experience on chance. Migrants’ well being should not depend upon the benevolence of their employers but should be enshrined in the rule of law.

The presenter further suggested that “Indeed, they [these findings] raise questions about continuing to place top research priority on ‘problematic and exploitative labour relations’ and suggest instead exploring other aspects of the effects of Gulf labour migration,”

The purpose of these reports and the research that informs them is to encourage reform so that migration and its positive effects continue without undue transgressions on human rights. Because migrants will continue to take advantages of the higher salaries, and because of the potential social benefits of migration, scrutiny labor frameworks and social relations must continue. Priorities need not lie in examining either the positive or negative effects of migration; both the costs of migration and its 'bright side' must be evaluated in order to accurately gauge conditions and improve the well-being of all stakeholders.

Advancing the rights of migrant workers throughout the Middle East