South Asian Migrant Workers in Dubai

By Tanya Raghu
Submitted to Session S6704 (CUMES Undergraduate Research Poster Presentation, 2021 Annual Meeting
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This paper explores the interplay between the UAE government, Emiratis, and the long term South Asian migrant workers that comprise approximately 90 percent of Dubai. In reaction, the native Arab population of 1 million has felt increasingly alienated as ‘strangers in their own land.’ The role of the state in managing this ‘demographic imbalance’ between long-term Indian expatriates and native Emiraties is the focus of this paper. As the ultimate arbitrator in regulating population affairs, I argue that the state has strengthened its relevance and role as both the protector against exploitation for expatriates and the guardian of citizens from the overwhelming foreigners. As such, the research question of this paper is: How has the presence of the long-term Indian expatriate population reinforced the role of the monarchy in Dubai? This paper employs ethnographic methods including interviews with current and previous South Asian residents of Dubai as well as conducts a literature review of existing research. Relevant sources will be academic articles related to the social, political, and economic role of South Asian migrants in the Gulf Cooperation Council as well as current theories explaining the relationship between monarchies and its subjects. While the media has highlighted widespread human rights violations against laborers as well the shrinking Emirati population and loss of cultural heritage, the presence of long term migrants left in an “in-between'' state has been overlooked. This article looks to contribute to this discussion at the intersection of human rights, governance in the Arabian Peninsula, and social consequences as a result of a reliance on economic expatriates.