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Addressing Irregular Migration in the Gulf States

  • Philippe Fargues
  • Nasra M. Shah
  • Françoise De Bel-Air
Publisher: Gulf Research Center
Date of Publication: Oct 2015
Publications Categories: Research Papers & Analysis


Irregular migration has great resonance in the Gulf, just as in the West. Migrants in irregular situation avoid state administrative procedures and so their numbers are unknown. The largest amnesty (Saudi Arabia 2013) would have affected more than 50 per cent of the migrants in the country. Irregular migration is by definition a breach of legislations that regulate the migrant’s status. It also results from contexts characterising some sending states, such as poverty, which forces nationals from these countries to move to more dynamic labour markets. Efforts must be made by countries of origin and destination to curtail irregular migration. In the Gulf States, this may be addressed in several ways: by improving the working and living conditions of foreign workers; by amending sponsorship rules; by granting citizenship to select categories of migrants; and by disentangling migration laws from labour laws. Initiatives in this regard have been taken by some countries and need to be strengthened in the future.

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