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Totally different Kind of Refugee: Onward Journeys of Gulf-Born Migrants from Politically Risky Nations

The United Arab Emirates (UAE) is dwelling to a sizeable Syrian neighborhood, a majority of whom have arrived there as non permanent migrant employees following the oil growth within the Nineteen Seventies. A lot of them stayed on with their households, resulting in second and third technology UAE-born Syrians dwelling within the UAE underneath non permanent renewable visas, as a result of strict migration regimes that stop everlasting settlement and naturalisation of most migrants within the UAE. Whereas this neighborhood’s multigenerational existence within the UAE might counsel that they’re non permanent on paper solely, the conflict in Syria has had important results on their sense of long-term safety within the UAE, in addition to their world mobility as Syrian passport holders. Consequently, most of them have robust incentives to try to circumvent each the restrictions tied to their citizenship by beginning, and their non permanent standing within the UAE, by pursuing ‘stronger’ passports from elsewhere.

My analysis with UAE-born Syrians between 2016 and 2020 explored their concerns and experiences of onward migration from the UAE. My respondents thought-about on-migration to safe a much less ambiguous future for themselves than is offered within the UAE, which they see as ‘dwelling’, however which has not been formalised as such. My analysis reveals that within the context of restricted choices for mobility and safety, different pathways for long run safety emerge, together with by asylum-seeking in a 3rd nation. Drawing on debates on strategic citizenship and complicated migration journeys, this paper illustrates how the experiences of UAE-born Syrians, within the context of the continued political turmoil in Syria, straddle the a lot critiqued but on-going dichotomies in migration research, corresponding to between non permanent and everlasting, compelled and voluntary types of migration. This contribution argues that in a context the place the choice to citizenship acquisition in host nation is foreclosed to migrants, and migrants have very restricted (or no) choices for residential safety elsewhere, their onward journeys for citizenship acquisition will be thought-about strategic, however not out of volition.

Syrians within the UAE

Within the UAE, non-nationals, together with these born and raised there, are usually unable to acquire native citizenship or everlasting residency regardless of constituting 90 p.c of the inhabitants. Though the UAE has launched long term visas and even pathways to Emirati citizenship lately, these reforms solely goal extremely expert migrants, entrepreneurs, and traders (Fattah and Abu Omar 2021). Thus, the vast majority of migrants within the UAE are regulated by renewable, sponsored, non permanent visas, generally known as kafala.

Syrians traditionally represent one of many largest teams of Arab migrants working within the Gulf States (Babar, 2017:7). Their migration trajectories to the UAE range traditionally and occupationally. A few of them have arrived as early because the Fifties and Sixties to work in expert jobs corresponding to judges, lecturers, engineers, bankers, docs or as entrepreneurs and businessmen. Within the Nineteen Seventies, they had been additionally more and more seen in lesser-skilled and decrease paying jobs, working in administrative and technical posts within the military, ports, municipality and native banks (Babar, 2017).

At the moment, an estimated 242,000 Syrians reside within the UAE, and the UAE authorities has acknowledged that 100,000 of them have entered the UAE for the reason that begin of the battle in 2011 (De Bel-Air, 2015: 10). While political instability at dwelling makes the Gulf States a gorgeous place to settle and stay for many Arab migrants, together with Syrians, they aren’t signatories to the 1951 Geneva Refugee Conference and haven’t any official framework for managing or accepting refugees or asylum seekers (Babar, 2017:9). Due to this fact, Syrians within the UAE, together with those that have arrived since 2011, are ruled by the kafala system, and will not be supplied formal provisions for safer residency, or safety from deportation (see The Nationwide, 2018, for advert hoc resolutions for Syrians within the UAE).

Though Syrians might discover strategic options to fight their non permanent scenario within the UAE, their capability to take action is in the end decided by class, social networks, in addition to their nationality (Ruhs, 2013; Vora, 2013; Valenta, 2020). Geopolitical issues are central to migration coverage making within the Gulf they usually have traditionally formed patterns of migration (see Babar, 2014; Kinninmonth, 2015; Jamal, 2015). But, we have to higher perceive how these issues, corresponding to conflict in origin nations, form Gulf migrants’ want and skill to maneuver onwards, and the complicated pathways they develop to entry the long-term safety of an alternate passport. We additionally must pay explicit consideration to how Gulf-born migrants expertise the ripple results of the political scenario of their nations of citizenship (see Jamal, 2017; Soudy, 2017; Taylor et al. 2017). The truth that being ‘completely non permanent’ is intergenerational within the Gulf States, which means that youngsters of non permanent employees inherit their dad and mom’ citizenship and immigration standing by beginning, is a singular case to introduce to the examine of citizenship and migration.

UAE-born Syrians are a great instance. Because the begin of the Syrian civil conflict in 2011, Syrians have been subjected to more durable border controls, residency visa renewals and safety checks within the Gulf and globally (Babar, 2014; Kinninmonth, 2015). As residency within the UAE is predominantly linked to work permits, not having the ability to renew residencies has severe implications, starting from not having the ability to enrol youngsters in colleges, to not having the ability to work and earn a dwelling wage (De Bel-Air, 2015:11). Furthermore, with a view to renew non permanent visas within the UAE, migrants must have a legitimate passport. Nevertheless, political instability in Syria impacts the Syrian authorities’ capability or want to resume passports for his or her nationals dwelling overseas, together with within the UAE (Surak, 2021:177). Navy service is obligatory for Syrian nationals, together with these residing overseas. Failing to attend or pay the exemption price, Syrian authorities refuse to resume passports, which has direct penalties for renewing their residencies within the UAE (Immigration and Refugee Board of Canada, 2014). Furthermore, at 800$, Syrian passports are additionally the costliest to situation and renew globally (Alarabiya, 2017).

If Syrians within the UAE lose their non permanent work or residency visas, their choices of shifting to a 3rd nation are extraordinarily restricted, contemplating that Syrian passports have misplaced most of their worth when it comes to stability and mobility as a result of conflict, and selective border controls apply most strictly to this group (see Passport Index 2021). Furthermore, as a result of unstable political scenario in Syria, ‘return’ just isn’t a viable choice. The truth is, UAE-born Syrians can change into refugees in the event that they lose their non permanent residency (see Babar, Ewers and Khattab 2018, 1554). On this context, a rich minority of Syrians within the UAE purchases passports by ‘Citizenship by Funding’ programmes (Maceda, 2018). For center class Syrians, like different Gulf migrants, migrating to a Western nation for greater training or work, within the hope of ultimately naturalising, can be a standard technique (Ali, 2011). Nevertheless, examine and work visas are more and more exhausting to acquire, and had been by no means an choice for almost all of Syrians within the UAE and elsewhere (Khaishgi, 2017). For Syrians with restricted sources or choices, asylum in search of in European Union nations additionally emerged as a final resort, as this examine exhibits. Importantly, it is a results of having no acceptable options to their unstable authorized standing within the Gulf. This brings me to briefly evaluate the present conceptual debates on strategic citizenship and complicated onward migration journeys.

Results of conflict at ‘dwelling’ on non permanent migrants

Within the context of a worldwide inequality, the place people’ mobility in addition to residential safety is set by the passports they maintain, pursuing citizenship from privileged nations is known as compensational, strategic and pragmatic (Mavroudi, 2006; Harpaz and Mateos, 2018). Restrictive migration regimes and geopolitical issues are prevalent globally and they’re integral to the copy of worldwide inequalities premised in citizenship, offering a central context to know why an alternate passport is interesting to sure populations. For example, residential insecurity, arising from restrictive citizenship and immigration insurance policies, is instantly linked to questions of citizenship and why it issues for many who are excluded from it in host nations (Prepare dinner-Martin, 2019; Bloemraad and Sheares, 2017). Moreover, geopolitical issues, corresponding to conflict, or basic political instability, situation the demand for an additional passport, because it offers means for primary safety and a particular place to reside in a worldwide context of hostile border regimes. Thus, a liminal authorized standing amongst migrants who may in any other case be labeled as refugees, such because the Syrians mentioned on this paper, creates added obstacles (see Menjivar, 2006; Babar, Ewers and Khattab 2018).

So as to have a fuller image of when, how, for whom and in what contexts citizenship issues – necessary questions that require additional consideration and investigation in citizenship research (Bloemraad and Sheares, 2017) –, it’s essential to mix the literature on strategic citizenship with that on complicated migration journeys. Whereas strategic citizenship acknowledges worldwide migration as a key technique to avoid inequalities premised on citizenship (Surak, 2021, 171), it stays largely disengaged from necessary conceptual discussions in migration research, corresponding to on volition, company, and migrant decision-making. Consequently, the experiences of people that attempt to entry the safety supplied by stronger passports is usually studied by a binary lens of compelled migrants, e.g. asylum seekers and refugees (Kibreab, 2003; Miller, 2001; Gibney, 2014), versus strategic naturalisers, corresponding to rich and middle-class people from non-Western nations who pursue higher passports as a type of insurance coverage coverage (see Surak, 2021; Harpaz and Mateos, 2018).

In non permanent migration regimes like within the UAE, migrants are at perpetual danger of dropping residency rights no matter their citizenship. However ought to their dwelling nations expertise sudden shifts in political circumstances, this danger grows exponentially, resulting in a perceived necessity for citizenship acquisition from elsewhere. This course of will be understood as circumstantial migration (see Carling and Haugen 2020), as altering circumstances end in unpredicted, complicated onward migration journeys, for instance asylum-seeking, which migrants wouldn’t have thought-about earlier than. Complexities of their onward migration, nonetheless, can’t be captured by prevailing classes, corresponding to between non permanent/everlasting and compelled/voluntary types of migration. By assuming that folks transfer in linear style, these descriptive classes are inclined to ignore that experiences in addition to motivations of people can change over area and time, akin to quite a lot of socio-economic and political circumstances within the contexts they inhabit (Crawley & Skleparis, 2018: 55; see Fiddian-Qasmiyeh, 2011 for ‘overlapping’ and ‘a number of’ refugeehoods).

At a conceptual degree, circumstances join with the analytical dialogue on volition, options and choices, which Erdal and Oeppen convey ahead (2018). Circumstances are key in understanding volition in migration choices, as a result of they (re)form the fundamental wants of migrants of their explicit context, in addition to a spread of options obtainable to them in the event that they resolve to not migrate (Erdal and Oeppen, 2018:985; Crawley and Skleparis, 2018; Gibney, 2011:48).  These options can change alongside a migration journey, as Erdal and Oeppen focus on. But, within the case of Syrians within the UAE, their choices, for instance for long-term safety and mobility, change while they reside of their host nation as non permanent residents, due to what is occurring in Syria, the nation they maintain passports from. It’s within the context of those altering circumstances that they contemplate, or expertise, onward migration journeys, essentially questioning dichotomous migration classes, and illustrating a brand new instance of a fancy migration trajectory (see Snel, Bilgili and Staring 2020).

First, the dichotomy between compelled versus voluntary migration fails to account for the temporal and circumstantial elements of Gulf migrants’ onward journeys to Western nations. The experiences of Syrians holding non permanent residencies within the UAE might not be thought-about as unstable to the identical extent as these fleeing conflict in Syria. Nevertheless, a sudden shift in political circumstances, corresponding to conflict in Syria, might intensify their sense of temporariness within the UAE, and instigate a necessity for citizenship acquisition from elsewhere. But, the options for citizenship acquisition for these teams are doubly restricted, as they haven’t any entry to permanency of their host nations, and their capability to maneuver onward is constrained by strict border regimes concentrating on residents of politically unstable nations (Shaheen, 2017). Since their resolution for onward migration is to a big diploma motivated by accessing long-term residential safety that’s not supplied within the UAE, their experiences are higher understood as ‘being compelled to go away’, even when they migrate onwards underneath so known as voluntary classes, corresponding to for training or work.

Second, considering of migrants within the UAE and the Gulf when it comes to both everlasting or non permanent limits our understanding of the which means of those locations for them and their resolution for onward migration. Regardless that a physique of literature illustrates the difficulties of framing migrant experiences and classes as both non permanent or everlasting (see Bailey, 2002, Rajkumar et.al, 2012), there’s an ongoing, Eurocentric notion that perceives all non permanent residencies of migrants as transit locations, or in different phrases ‘meaningless non permanent refuges earlier than migrants attain their closing vacation spot’ (Snel, Bilgili and Staring 2020, 4). This could be the case for stepwise migrants within the Gulf, who’ve pre-determined aims of onward migration to Western nations, and who take particular actions to attain that (Valenta, 2020). Nevertheless, this notion ignores the distinctive scenario of Gulf-born migrants, who regardless of being labelled as non permanent, are de facto from the Gulf, and understand these locations as their major dwelling. The truth is, for many of them, migrating to a 3rd nation is seen as a brief step to accumulate citizenship and ultimately return to the Gulf with a ‘stronger passport’ (see Akinci, 2019; Jamal, 2017; Ali, 2011; Surak, 2021, 177). This exhibits that proscribing paths to citizenship within the Gulf has necessary results on the way in which migrants understand the worth and which means of citizenship generally.

Conclusion and Outlook

Via the experiences of UAE born Syrians, I illustrated how in restrictive migration contexts corresponding to within the UAE, a sudden shift in political circumstances in origin nations, such because the on-going conflict in Syria, instantly impacts the choices and options migrants have for long run safety and stability.

It’s on this context that UAE-born Syrians discover citizenship acquisition elsewhere more and more interesting, but their capability to maneuver onwards is constrained by strict border regimes, even for these with satisfactory monetary property. This paper argues that when migrants haven’t any means of acquiring citizenship in a number nation, and have restricted (or no) choices for residential safety elsewhere, their onward journeys to accumulate passports will be framed as strategic, however not voluntary. That is significantly the case for migrants who had been born and raised in host states, however who inherited a scarcity of primary rights to residency and safety from deportation as second- or third-generation migrants. Consequently, asylum in search of in a 3rd nation emerges as an choice for many who have restricted sources, as this paper exhibits. Even when these populations have satisfactory sources to maneuver onwards underneath ‘voluntary classes’, corresponding to for work, greater training, or household unification, their motivations to undertake a journey to entry long-term residential safety place them in migration classes that might be rendered as “being compelled to go away”. Furthermore, their onward journeys are sometimes described by migrants as a brief step that enables them to accumulate a (Western) passport to return ‘dwelling’ – to the UAE – ‘completely’. In so doing, this contribution offers an instance of complicated migration journeys, and contributes to analytical discussions on voluntariness, selection and options when onward migration is taken into account in pursuit of an alternate citizenship.

The main target of future educational inquiry shouldn’t be on whether or not to classify migrants corresponding to those that had been the topic of this textual content as non permanent or everlasting, voluntary or compelled, however to know what pushes them to hunt different permanencies elsewhere, and underneath what situations. This additionally requires us to convey debates on strategic citizenship and complicated migration journeys nearer collectively, as altering circumstances can instantly form why and the way citizenship issues, and what choices and pathways are there to entry it. Contemplating the prevalence of each restrictive immigration insurance policies globally and geopolitical issues that inform border coverage making, related complicated journeys will be foreseen amongst different migrant teams within the UAE, and wider Gulf, in addition to in different non permanent migration contexts. Most not too long ago, as we witness the Taliban take over Afghanistan, and subsequent tales of former President Ashraf Ghani and Afghan civilians taking ‘refuge’ or non permanent safety within the UAE, we should always flip our consideration to Afghans who settled within the UAE for many years and throughout generations, and perceive how the sudden political shift in Afghanistan impacts their future safety and mobility, both within the UAE or elsewhere.


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