Can Labour Migration be a Solution for Refugees? Some Observations from the Gulf Arab States.

6 December 2022, 6.00pm - 8.00pm
Institute of Advanced Legal Studies, 17 Russell Square, London WC1B 5DR

“The Changing Nature of ‘Solutions’ to Refugee Situations”

Refugee Law Initiative

13th Annual Seminar Series (2022-23)

This annual series of in-person talks and Q&A, followed by drinks and discussion, the seminars (except in March) take place at IALS, Charles Clore House, 17 Russell Sq, London WC1B 5DR.


Tuesday 6th December 2022, 6pm (IALS)

“Can Labour Migration be a Solution for Refugees? Some Observations from the Gulf Arab States”

Dr Jinan Bastaki – Center for Socio-Legal Studies, University of Oxford

Recently, there has been some exploration of labour mobility policies in the context of refugees as a way of local country integration, with some examples from Africa and Latin America. Building on these examples, this paper explores labour mobility as a potential solution for refugees in states that are not party to the 1951 Convention, in particular in the Gulf Arab States. Many of the countries making up the Gulf Cooperation Council provide substantial sums of aid to neighbouring countries supporting refugees, but have not enacted any local laws or resettlement policies themselves.

Yet, these states rely in large part on expatriate labour and are indeed made up of majority non-citizens, with forced migrants hidden within the population at large. For example, some Syrians who have been able to obtain work visas have preferred to go to the UAE rather than seek refuge in other neighbouring countries. Some positive initiatives, such as a 2018 Amnesty Law in the UAE, which created a specific category of residency permits for those from countries suffering war and natural disasters, have ensured that de facto refugees are protected against refoulement in the event that they lose their residency. However, this was a temporary measure with few protections aside from the ability to legally stay and the waiving of fines. In order for labour migration as a solution for refugees to work, there needs to be better guarantees and minimum protections, such as schooling for children and healthcare, as well as labour protections. Here, we can see reluctance from States to commit to standards that can ensure that refugees are protected.

Dr Jinan Bastaki is an international law scholar who focuses on human rights, refugee law, and citizenship. She is particularly interested in the lived experiences of those impacted by the law, how the law regulates access and belonging, and what those experiences reveal about the law itself. She was recently a  Visiting Professor of Legal Studies at NYU Abu Dhabi and is currently a Visiting Scholar at the University of Oxford's Center for Socio-Legal Studies.


Refugee Law Initiative
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