Africa Labour Migration to the GCC states

23 May 2024
Aspyee Admin
Africa Labour Migration to the GCC states
African labour migration

Labour migration from Africa as shown in the country cases of Ghana, Kenya, Nigeria and Uganda to the GCC states has been on the increase. This is largely perceived but less captured statistically. Even though data collected is scanty, the perception is supported by increasing reported cases of abuses and maltreatment of African labour migrants. The abuses have led to labour migration ban to the GCC states, notably Saudi Arabia and United Arab Emirates, by some of the case study countries at one time. While this phenomenon is largely undocumented, the majority of those who end up in the GCC states are mostly young, unskilled and less educated Africans.

The composition of labour migrants is also becoming more feminized due to the nature of jobs and demands in the GCC states. Domestic services sector appear to engage most of the migrant workers while sectors such as construction and security are also notable areas. A number of factors are behind the recent increase in GCC states migration Africa. Though they may be country specifics, they are multiple and overlapping. The main push factors however, inspite of the abuses and exploitation, are high unemployment, the lack of decent jobs and the
life style of successful return migrants. Further, the local communities and leaders also play a part in facilitating migration. Where African labour migrants face exploitation and abuses in their course of taking up employment and during actual work in the GCC states, their ordeals usually start from the point of departure to their workplaces and in their efforts to get out and return home. There are instances, as some compiled cases here will show, of African migrants that were not lucky to get out in piece, but returned home in coffins. Recruitment agencies (though not most) in Africa have through their actions and activities handled potential and actual Africans labour as vulnerable persons to be exploited and treated inhumanly. Exorbitant fees and charges are collected from potential migrants after feeding them with deceptions and false promises that fuel their desperation. Regulation of labour recruitment agencies is still weak and encouraging exploitation and human trafficking practices and operation.

However, the efforts of the Kenyan government to overhaul labour migration management to the GCC states is acknowledged. Nigeria and Ghana also emphasize labour recruitment agencies registration. However, the inspection and supervision of their activities are considered grossly inadequate. The kafala sponsorship system that ties migrant workers to an individual sponsors for visa and employment continues to perpetrate and exacerbate slavery and slavery–like practices in the GCC states. Very limited information and knowledge on how to process and organise safe labour migration on the part of the potential labour migrants have also been observed. In most cases, the level of desperation blur the space and time for information and knowledge seeking and analysis, thus affecting the quality of decisions made. It was also observed that African governments have provided very little protection for their citizens migrating to GCC states for employment. Most African migrants spoken to complained of very little support and protection from their embassies. This is partly so because some African embassies get overwhelmed and have little expertise and competence to deal with labour migration related cases.