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GCC Covid Relief Report

For migrant workers in the GCC, decades of marginalisation and exclusion from welfare policies made their situation more precarious during the pandemic. This report, based on data collected in the first few months of the pandemic, sheds light on some of the key concerns and patterns of violation of rights.

On November 3, 2021

Though MR’s mandate is advocacy, research, and reporting, we were compelled to respond to calls for support during the early months of the pandemic. Working with a network of volunteers and partner organisations, we provided direct relief in the form of food distribution, access to healthcare, accommodation, and repatriation to over 3500 workers across the region. Our sample size is modest, but the conclusions reflect wider trends observed through our on-ground reporting. The data that we have collected may not capture the challenges faced by all vulnerable groups but do indicate that the issues are more widespread than reported in local media, which shies away from reporting on issues that may show governments in a bad light. The reporting from origin countries on returnees validate our findings.

By April 2020, every GCC country — Saudi Arabia, United Arab Emirates, Kuwait, Oman, Bahrain, and Qatar — had implemented some form of lockdown and travel ban. While some key sectors remained open, to a large extent the economy came to a grinding halt. Discriminatory policies and racist discourses proliferated, with citizens receiving preferential treatment in economic responses, medical treatment, and travel restrictions. Emergency decrees empowered businesses to almost unilaterally change contract terms for migrant workers— leave without pay, reduction of salaries and termination — with safeguards against job loss and excessive salary reduction reserved for nationals only. Government responses did not prioritise migrant workers, and needs were too large to be carried by licensed charities and community groups.

Read the full report, here.