A Revolution for Foreign Workers in the Arab Countries of the Middle East
By: Yasmina Hage/Arab America Contributing Writer
In the Middle East, many countries are facing war or economic hardship. This situation is also present in other countries. As a result, in the Middle East, some Arab countries welcome foreigners from their neighbors and the rest of the world who are looking for opportunities. These foreigners dream of a better future, and most the time, they desperately need to earn money to send to their families.
Difficulties encountered by foreign workers
Currently in the Arab World, because of wars, revolutions, and the coronavirus, the unemployment rate is increasing. This leads to their economic decline. Locals are struggling to find work and are becoming tense in the face of this very complicated situation. As a result, when natives see that foreign workers have jobs, some start accusing them of stealing their jobs. This leads to racism and hatred. Moreover, because of the situation is getting worse, foreign workers will have a hard time getting paid on time. This generates anger among foreign workers and that contributes to a very electric work environment. No one knows what the future holds, and uncertainty creates fear among all. This is actually typical of all countries; the political and economic situation has a strong impact on the social situation.
Like everywhere else in the world, people have a preconceived idea of human beings of a specific nationality, which is bad. Indeed, this is what we notice in Lebanon, for example. Lebanese people may accuse Syrians or other immigrants/refugees of stealing their jobs, so eventually, the Lebanese people may find a possible excuse to hate newcomers. Once that is done, the anger will make them generalize and perceive all newcomers as the cause of the economic decline. Vice versa, the Syrians and other newcomers would find an excuse to look at the Lebanese as bad people. Through the strong “word of mouth,” negative stories of bad behaviors circulate quickly.
How might it impact their perspective
When a foreign worker arrives newly in a country and his colleagues tell him bad things about the local population, eventually, he will start to dislike them without having lived his own experience. These situations are very dangerous for both sides. On the one hand, it is dangerous for the country’s original inhabitants because it creates a lot of tension in the community. On the other hand, it is also very dangerous for foreign workers. Indeed, it is a burden that would add to the homesickness and the sadness of being away from one’s family in unfamiliar environment, This would lead them to instability and their only desire will be to return to their homeland; however, while in the host country, they set themselves apart and limit their integration which causes depressive situation.
Fortunately, this is not the case for everyone. Not everyone sees things this way, and there are many relations between Syria and Lebanon that are going really well. Despite this challenging period that everyone has to face, there are people who remain very understanding. These people are role models.
The Arab population is well aware of the problem that exists between foreign workers and the local people of the countries. Faced with this situation, they do not intend to stand idle.
Improvements for foreign workers
To improve the situation of foreign workers, Qatar had introduced real legislation through the International Labour Organization (ILO), which had been established in Doha in 2018. The local legislation has led to a real official regulation. The ILO’s responsibility is to enforce the law properly once it is created. As a result, foreign workers will have more rights and suffer less abuse.
In the UAE, the situation for foreign workers is improving during the pandemic. In addition, the UAE will provide them with food and housing and will relax immigration rules if their visas expire.
In Kuwait, domestic workers (who are often foreign workers) are seeing improvements in their working conditions. In fact, Kuwait is the first country in the Arab Golf world to impose a minimum monthly salary which is for domestic helpers must not be less than 60 dinars ($195,15). Moreover, Kuwait has also decided to limit working hours to 12 hours a day, provide for the payment of overtime, and give the right to an allowance of one month a year at the end of the contract. They are also entitled to one day’s weekly leave and 30 days paid annual leave.
The Impact of Black Lives Matter Movement (BLM)
The murder of George Floyd due to police blunders has awakened a genuine desire for equality among people around the world. People want to fight for equality and the diminishing of racism or discrimination.
Here is a video that has been shared and liked by many Arabs:
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To all my sisters and brothers in the world specially in the Middle East and Lebanon, now is the time to raise your voices be proud of your colour, keep your heads up and walk with pride, keep your smile on your face and don’t be afraid to speak up. I’m here and there are lots of people standing up for 🙏🏽✊🏽💛
In some Arab countries of the Middle East, there are workers that are victims of discrimination and are sometimes mistreated by their employers. As a result, a good part of the Arab population fights against the people who mistreat foreign workers. So we declare that there’s a positive movement that inspires change. With this movement, foreign workers may be less likely to be mistreated.
Young people are on the move to make things happen. Therefore, this open-mindedness and desire to make a difference gives hope for a positive change for Arab countries.
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