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The readings mentioned below build on recent calls to treat migration as inherently gendered, sexualized, and racialized. Gender, race, religion, and sexuality shape the subjective identities and experiences of both male and female migrants, and they influence national migration, population policies and societal responses to migration in sending and receiving countries. Through specific attention to different forms of migration and labor, these authors develop an approach that examines how diverse types of migration and migration experiences have re-configured gender, sexuality, and race in these contexts, and how those configurations have changed across Middle Eastern migratory circuits.


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By questioning these prevailing dichotomies, new ethnographic work on migration in the Middle East interrogates dominant formulations of cross-border mobility and its impact on citizenship norms and national identities. The ethnographies and edited volumes presented below help us to get a fuller picture of the context of migration in the Middle East today. Gamburd was one of the first ethnographers to speak with female domestic workers from South Asia living and working in the Gulf. In the case of domestic workers, as Gamburd points out, migrant women live in the home of their employers and are this rendered particularly vulnerable.

Still, as Gamburd notes, the experience of migration, and the financial stability that it brings many Sri Lankan women, is notable for many of these migrants as well as their families. Rather than focus on South Asian female domestic workers as oppressed and forced into conversions, Ahmad explores the nuances of the choices these women make. In particular, I look at the fates of children born to migrant women abroad, many of whom become stateless as their mothers violate sponsorship rules punishing women who engage in sexual activities.


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  • In this and his later work, Gardner effectively documents the raced and classed experiences of South Asian migrants in the Gulf, as well as how these experiences affect their lives when they return home, creating narratives of success about their migratory experiences. Vora takes it further to explore the hierarchies created by different waves and backgrounds of Indian migrants as they become intergenerational fixtures in the laborscape of Dubai.

    The Japanese authorities claimed that hepatitis was the cause of death. In fact, Maricris Sioson suffered a fatal head trauma after being stabbed twice.

    The autopsy finally performed in Manila concurred that she was murdered, but the circumstances of her death were never clarified in Japan. Therefore, no legal action followed. In the meantime, a new case occurred in Singapore. Flor Contemplacion was hanged for the double murder of a child and a fellow countrywoman, Delia Maga, who, like her, was a domestic helper.

    After investigation, it seemed that the child drowned after a seizure and her employer, the father of the child, may have killed Maga. After the recall of the Philippine ambassador and banning Singapore as a destination country for domestic services workers, the commission for the protection of OFWs was created The protection of nationals abroad became a major issue in the Philippines. Against this backdrop, a case arose in the Emirates just a few months later, during the summer of Sarah Balabagan entered the UAE when she was fifteen, illegally.

    In , her eighty-five-year-old employer raped her. She killed him the following year as he tried to commit the offense again. After the appeal, she was sentenced to death. Since then, the Philippine government has set up regulations to protect young women from the dangers of working abroad. Migrations were still encouraged as a personal choice but Philippine authorities tried to provide better protection to their nationals In order to eradicate the illegal placement of jobseekers, the law on migrant workers and Filipinos abroad also instituted the Overseas Workers Welfare Administration OWWA whose mission has been since to support migrants and their families.

    It coordinates its efforts with the Commission on Filipinos Overseas CFO created in to help the overseas diaspora Employees of the POLO, as well as Welfare officers, are sent to the main cities of migration, like Dubai, from which they report on the conditions of the whole community in a given country. They are key actors of the Filipino community in the UAE. Since the beginning of the s, remittances from the UAE have represented a quarter of the total remittances earned in the Middle East, the most attractive region for Filipino migrants.

    Source: Central Bank of the Philippines. This was to be implemented without reaching a point of no return, such as an embargo, which would deplete transfers of money vital for many families in the archipelago. In the interstate dialogue, Abu Dhabi seemed to have the upper hand. According to Abdul Monem al-Mashat 29 , Emiratis have a concentric perception of the world that bestows privilege accordingly: around the federation of the seven emirates, the neighbours of the peninsula the GCC states and perhaps Yemen constitute the first circle.

    Its constituents are deemed as equal. The second circle comprises the Arabs of the Middle East. The rest of the Muslims the ummah are in the third circle. In descending order of importance, the remaining states constitute the fourth circle. As the Emiratis look further away from the innermost circle, the relations become so distant that the peoples from the fourth circle epitomise the figure of the Other.

    We may even assume that the countries of the fourth circle are all, by and large, on an equal footing Therefore, as the Philippines are in this remote circle, there is no particular prejudice nor special friendship to distinguish the Republic from the other countries in the fourth circle. South and South-East Asians were perceived as more manageable than the Arab workers who constituted until then the backbone of the working population in the GCC Since this structural transformation of the workforce, Emirati laws and practices have remained unchanged until today.

    This system encapsulates the social structure of the country. In this pyramidal structure, companies apply for visas for their employees under the sponsorship of an Emirati. Unskilled workers are admitted on a one-year visa, whereas professional employees are offered a three-year visa.

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    The number of accredited agencies has doubled since the beginning of the 21 st century, going from agencies in in the UAE to by The POEA does not hesitate to revoke licenses to offending recruiters. In reality, the government has let the companies deal with managing the workforce. Second, this delegation of authority also explains why the UAE somehow tolerates a certain number of illegal mainly overstaying migrants in the federation considering that the Emirates is one of the safest places in the world while monitoring the flow of million visa-based visitors annually.

    Emirati officials tolerate this situation because it eases the recruitment process for the private sector. Recruiting a new employee takes, at best, a couple of months identifying the persons with the right credentials through an agency in Manila, travel, medical visit, passport, security clearance, etc. However, the media constantly report on pervasive tensions regarding household service workers, focusing on runaway maids, the violation of human rights, and the legal status of employees, i.

    Their employers are compelled to settle new fees to replace them agencies, visa, etc. No statistics have been released on the number of runaway maids but on rare occasions, when the numbers decrease, officials are more willing to provide an estimate. In order to fly back to Manila, they need their passport and a return flight ticket that their employer is mandated to purchase upon fulfilment of the contract.


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    In , the shelter with a capacity for fifty persons received an average of a hundred house helpers per month. Two peaks are recorded during the year. Like in any other host countries, the weeks before Christmas witness an increase due to homesick mothers; and in the UAE, like in any other Muslim host countries, Ramadan also causes a surge in prompt departures because of the intense workload and more difficult working conditions.

    During this time, an increasing number of maids called for help at the consulates. Although there were serious cases that were ultimately brought before the Emirati courts, Benito Valeriano, the then consul general in Dubai, underlined that a root cause of the problem was that some maids were either not ready or not suited to perform the job they were recruited for; some, educated beyond secondary school, had not been previously exposed to the harsh rigour of domestic work required in their new environment.

    He recommended that the agencies should select their applicants with the aid of psychological tests before their deployment This statement illustrates how the Philippine authorities perceive the role of their agencies, as reluctant partners. In the UAE, the POLO office has had strong leverage over the agencies: when a house helper arrives at the shelter, the office scrutinises the application form of the employee, and has refused in some instances to process new applications, and therefore new visas, from the incriminated agency.

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    An accurate perspective is difficult to get because of a lack of resources and evidence However, the issue of Filipino maids in the UAE should be analysed in the light of domestic violence, human trafficking and gendered violence. Pardis Mahdavi was the first to explore this field by collecting personal testimonies.

    Gridlock: Labor, Migration, and Human Trafficking in Dubai / Edition 1

    First, the gender imbalance in the UAE is important as migration favours young male workers mainly employed in the construction sector: there are more male than female. In this context, and as relationships outside marriage are forbidden, women are more likely to be harassed. Second, as the Philippines has developed over the centuries a culture of hospitality, friendliness might be misinterpreted.

    South Asian employees and workers are not used to it. Third, as Islam, and Wahhabism in particular, advocates the separation of the male and female spheres in social functions and public life, sexual tension is highly present in the UAE. Fourth, a combination of racial and social prejudices threatens their safety. She called her sister in Kuwait for help and the latter exposed the story on Facebook.

    This story illustrates the vulnerability of Filipino maids, especially in emirates where there are no consular representations, as well as the solidarity among the community, and the response of the Philippine authorities.

    _Human Trafficking in Dubai - WilsonCenter

    As mentioned above, the flexibility of the Emirati authorities regarding illegal immigration has led to an increase in undocumented migrants But migrants entering on a tourist visa, sometimes with the help of unaccredited agencies, or migrants that remained illegally, have no legal protection. It is also common practice that the illegal worker is made to sign an unofficial contract imposing a lower salary than is legally obliged and without any additional rights.

    Without diplomatic supervision, and although the Emirati authorities are vigilant on human trafficking, some young women may get into inextricable situations, from prostitution to domestic enslavement Thus, the Philippine authorities have had to pay great attention to the reality of contracts and minimum wage. Bilateral agreements were negotiated in the sector of labour migrations, such as the memorandum of understanding MoU that took effect in , negotiated between thee Department of Labor and Employment DOLE and the Emirati ministry of Labour This MoU perfectly reflects the interests of both parties.

    Unlike countries such as Saudi Arabia that refused bilateral discussions, the UAE agreed to negotiate because the new legal provisions would increase its control over the overseas Filipino community in the federation. He also challenged the general mistreatment of workers in the Gulf countries. At the same time, the new president of the Philippines restored a certain sense of national pride not seen in Manila since President Magsaysay — Manila was therefore encouraged to ask for similar working conditions for its nationals in the UAE too.

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