Panel 7G

Demographic Imbalances in the Gulf States

9.00 – 11.00
Chair: Wojciech Grabowski, University of Gdansk

Qatar’s Indian Question: What Impact has Qatar’s Large Indian Migrant Population had on the Recognised Boundaries of the Gulf State?

Joe Worthington, University of Exeter

Migration of both skilled and unskilled migrants into the Gulf is having a significant impact on the politics and societies in these relatively modern nation-states. My paper focuses specifically on the situation in Qatar where between 94% and 96% of the population are non-Qatari migrant workers. I will propose that, because around 24% of the 2.3 million population are Indian, the largest ethnic group in the state, as opposed to the 4-6% who are Qatari, the state boundaries of Qatar and India have become fluid; the boundaries recognised by the United Nations have theoretically shifted with the migrant workers. Qatar is arguably both an independent self-governing sovereign state and a “neo-state” with what can be described as “ghost boundaries” determined by the largest national group in the state. There is a historic legacy at play; India, through the British Persian Gulf Residency, governed the boundaries of Qatar between 1915 and 1947, and Indian nationals (many British-Indians) established the foundations of Qatar’s contemporary political and judicial systems. Using quantitative analysis of migration data and published reports, this paper will contend that, although Qatar is a de jure independent state, the sustained Indian migrant flow since independence has de facto established Qatar as an honorary state within the Indian Republic. Qatar’s sovereignty or integrity is not in question, but migration from India to Qatar has blurred the boundaries of the Gulf State, establishing a migrant-based Indian-inspired nation with Qatari principles. Migration is changing the notion of nation-states as we currently understand them.

Download Paper (Worthington)

Societal Security in Qatar: A Security Approach to Mobilities and Immigration the Gulf

Betul Dogan Akkas, Gulf Studies Centre / Qatar University

The Gulf is “most strategically important area of the world” via quotation from President Eisenhower, and even before its centralization by oil, it was a dynamic region that owes its survival to the sea for both pearling and trade. Dependency on the sea has brought to opportunity of communication firstly via other side of the Gulf, then with the entire world. That is why the concepts of mobility and materiality had started effecting the Gulf before their global fame, oil. When oil has added to the dynamism in the region, number of foreigners, immigrants, trade initiatives, diplomatic figures, artists and travelers has skyrocketed. Major change in attraction of the region has been also affected by globalization and communication. How does this alteration influence the societal dimensions in the Gulf?  Societal security is also named as “identity security” and refers to “…large, self-sustaining identity groups; what these are empirically varies in both time and place” (Buzan, Waever & de Wilde, 1998, p.119). The concept of societal security is crucial to analyse how external or internal mobilities in a state can trigger existence of threats to identities and social structures in the society. More specifically, how immigration, globalization, huge amount of expat community has effected Qatari policy makers’ societal security understanding?  In the first part of the research theoretical background on societal security will be introduced. Secondly, basics of these mobilities and continuous systematic movement in Qatar such as immigration, expat communities, globalization and Qataris’ oversea travels will be discussed to see what their role is in societal level of securitization. This is important to see what the reflection of a being kinetic society in its security structure. Interviews with Qataris and experts on regional studies are at the centre of the research. This study aims to research on evolution of societal securitization in Qatar, which will bring an alternative approach to the continuous systematic movement in the Gulf.

Kafala System: The Threat for the Social Stability

Wojciech Grabowski, University of Gdansk

The kafala (sponsorship) system which allow migrants to work and live in the rich Arab monarchies influence their economy as well as social life in these states. It ensure the rapid economic development in the Gulf states but also subjugate migrants through many regulations and exclusion from the legal framework. This system lead to multi-tiered societies with hierarchy where migrants occupy the lowest places of society while locals are situated on the top. It results structural inequalities in the Gulf states and human rights abuses. This build a sub-population which is excluded and marginalized in society. In respond reform movements are appearing and some Asian government are demanding to establish a minimum wage for its immigrants however this problem is still far from to be resolved. Only Bahrain decided to repeal the kafala system. One of the reason for functioning the system is demography. This structural imbalance where local populations constitute minority in total population make GCC governments full of fears and lead the policy of Arabization. The aim of the paper is to prepare SWOT analysis of kafala system and answer on question what threats and opportunities it pose for the Gulf countries.