Migrants Accused of aiding Political Enemies

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Sep 15 2013

Following the turmoil in Egypt, Gulf media outlets have have scapegoated migrants as ‘fifth column’ elements supporting and funding the Muslim Brotherhood.  The controversial Kuwaiti newspaper al-Shahed published a report on the “news ways of funding terrorism,” accusing non-citizens imams of funneling donations to the brotherhood. The paper claims imams exploit worshippers by using conflict areas such as Syria as a ruse for the donations, and circumvent donation laws by holding unofficial auctions. The report lists areas such as Khaitan, Hawally, and Farwaniya as the major spots for such activities because they are highly populated by migrants. The inflammatory piece was quickly re-circulated by other local newspapers.

The demonization of migrants as political enemies is not a recent development, and is reinforced my government attitudes towards migrants; migrants throughout the GCC have been targeted for expressing political views divergent with the state, as well as for demonstrating for the rights GCC governments supposedly upheld through their support of the Arab uprisings.

Earlier this month, a report indicated that two groups of Lebanese migrants were deported from the UAE merely for originating from the southern region of Lebanon, Hezoballa’s main base. Saudi Arabia and Kuwait also deported  Egyptian migrants protesting against the army’s crackdown on protesters.

GCC governments have historically treated migrants as a security threat,  even prior to the escalation of the foreign-population. In the early 70s, Arab migrants were strategically replaced with migrants from South-Asian countries in order to obstruct pan-Arabist sentiments popularized in the region at the time. The perceived political threat of large foreign population is one reason migration is approached from a securitization perspective rather than a rights based  or even economically efficient approach.

Advancing the rights of migrant workers throughout the Middle East