The United Arab Emirates (UAE) is residence to a sizeable Syrian neighborhood, a majority of whom have arrived there as short-term migrant staff following the oil increase within the Seventies. Lots of them stayed on with their households, resulting in second and third technology UAE-born Syrians residing within the UAE below short-term renewable visas, as a result of strict migration regimes that forestall everlasting settlement and naturalisation of most migrants within the UAE. Whereas this neighborhood’s multigenerational existence within the UAE could recommend that they’re short-term on paper solely, the struggle in Syria has had vital results on their sense of long-term safety within the UAE, in addition to their international mobility as Syrian passport holders. Because of this, most of them have robust incentives to attempt to circumvent each the restrictions tied to their citizenship by beginning, and their short-term standing within the UAE, by pursuing ‘stronger’ passports from elsewhere.

My analysis with UAE-born Syrians between 2016 and 2020 explored their issues and experiences of onward migration from the UAE. My respondents thought of on-migration to safe a much less ambiguous future for themselves than is accessible within the UAE, which they see as ‘residence’, 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 way of 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, akin to between short-term and everlasting, pressured 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 of strategic, however not out of volition.

Syrians within the UAE

Within the UAE, non-nationals, together with these born and raised there, are sometimes 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 in recent times, these reforms solely goal extremely expert migrants, entrepreneurs, and buyers (Fattah and Abu Omar 2021). Thus, nearly all of migrants within the UAE are regulated by way of renewable, sponsored, short-term visas, referred to 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 fluctuate traditionally and occupationally. A few of them have arrived as early because the Nineteen Fifties and Nineteen Sixties to work in expert jobs akin to judges, lecturers, engineers, bankers, docs or as entrepreneurs and businessmen. Within the 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 present, an estimated 242,000 Syrians stay within the UAE, and the UAE authorities has said that 100,000 of them have entered the UAE because the begin of the battle in 2011 (De Bel-Air, 2015: 10). While political instability at residence makes the Gulf States a sexy place to settle and stay for many Arab migrants, together with Syrians, they don’t seem to be signatories to the 1951 Geneva Refugee Conference and don’t have 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 way of the kafala system, and usually are not provided formal provisions for safer residency, or safety from deportation (see The Nationwide, 2018, for advert hoc resolutions for Syrians within the UAE).

Though Syrians could discover strategic options to fight their short-term scenario within the UAE, their potential 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, akin to struggle in origin nations, form Gulf migrants’ want and talent to maneuver onwards, and the complicated pathways they develop to entry the long-term safety of an alternate passport. We additionally have to pay specific 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 short-term’ is intergenerational within the Gulf States, which means that youngsters of short-term staff inherit their dad and mom’ citizenship and immigration standing by beginning, is a novel case to introduce to the examine of citizenship and migration.

UAE-born Syrians are an excellent instance. Because the begin of the Syrian civil struggle 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 with the ability to renew residencies has critical implications, starting from not with the ability to enrol youngsters in faculties, to not with the ability to work and earn a residing wage (De Bel-Air, 2015:11). Furthermore, as a way to renew short-term visas within the UAE, migrants have to have a legitimate passport. Nonetheless, political instability in Syria impacts the Syrian authorities’ potential or want to resume passports for his or her nationals residing overseas, together with within the UAE (Surak, 2021:177). Army service is obligatory for Syrian nationals, together with these residing overseas. Failing to attend or pay the exemption charge, 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 most costly to challenge and renew globally (Alarabiya, 2017).

If Syrians within the UAE lose their short-term 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 by way of stability and mobility as a result of struggle, 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 possibility. The truth is, UAE-born Syrians can develop into refugees in the event that they lose their short-term residency (see Babar, Ewers and Khattab 2018, 1554). On this context, a rich minority of Syrians within the UAE purchases passports by way of ‘Citizenship by Funding’ programmes (Maceda, 2018). For center class Syrians, like different Gulf migrants, migrating to a Western nation for larger schooling or work, within the hope of finally naturalising, can be a typical technique (Ali, 2011). Nonetheless, examine and work visas are more and more laborious to acquire, and had been by no means an possibility 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 reveals. Importantly, it is a results of having no acceptable alternate options to their unstable authorized standing within the Gulf. This brings me to briefly overview the prevailing conceptual debates on strategic citizenship and complicated onward migration journeys.

Results of struggle at ‘residence’ on short-term migrants

Within the context of a world 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 replica of worldwide inequalities premised in citizenship, offering a central context to grasp 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 individuals who are excluded from it in host nations (Prepare dinner-Martin, 2019; Bloemraad and Sheares, 2017). Moreover, geopolitical issues, akin to struggle, or basic political instability, situation the demand for one more passport, because it supplies means for fundamental safety and a particular place to stay in a world context of hostile border regimes. Thus, a liminal authorized standing amongst migrants who might in any other case be categorized 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 – vital questions that require additional consideration and investigation in citizenship research (Bloemraad and Sheares, 2017) –, it’s obligatory 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 vital conceptual discussions in migration research, akin to on volition, company, and migrant decision-making. Because of this, the experiences of people that attempt to entry the safety provided by stronger passports is commonly studied by way of a binary lens of pressured migrants, e.g. asylum seekers and refugees (Kibreab, 2003; Miller, 2001; Gibney, 2014), versus strategic naturalisers, akin 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 short-term migration regimes like within the UAE, migrants are at perpetual danger of dropping residency rights no matter their citizenship. However ought to their residence 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 lead to unpredicted, complicated onward migration journeys, for instance asylum-seeking, which migrants wouldn’t have thought of earlier than. Complexities of their onward migration, nonetheless, can’t be captured by way of prevailing classes, akin to between short-term/everlasting and compelled/voluntary types of migration. By assuming that individuals transfer in linear trend, these descriptive classes are likely to ignore that experiences in addition to motivations of people can change over house and time, similar to numerous 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, alternate options and choices, which Erdal and Oeppen carry ahead (2018). Circumstances are key in understanding volition in migration choices, as a result of they (re)form the essential wants of migrants of their specific context, in addition to a variety of alternate options obtainable to them in the event that they determine to not migrate (Erdal and Oeppen, 2018:985; Crawley and Skleparis, 2018; Gibney, 2011:48).  These alternate options can change alongside a migration journey, as Erdal and Oeppen talk about. 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 short-term 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 take into account, or expertise, onward migration journeys, basically 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 pressured versus voluntary migration fails to account for the temporal and circumstantial facets of Gulf migrants’ onward journeys to Western nations. The experiences of Syrians holding short-term residencies within the UAE might not be thought of as unstable to the identical extent as these fleeing struggle in Syria. Nonetheless, a sudden shift in political circumstances, akin to struggle in Syria, could intensify their sense of temporariness within the UAE, and instigate a necessity for citizenship acquisition from elsewhere. But, the alternate options for citizenship acquisition for these teams are doubly restricted, as they don’t have any entry to permanency of their host nations, and their potential 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 provided within the UAE, their experiences are higher understood as ‘being pressured to depart’, even when they migrate onwards below so known as voluntary classes, akin to for schooling or work.

Second, considering of migrants within the UAE and the Gulf by way of both everlasting or short-term limits our understanding of the which means of those locations for them and their resolution for onward migration. Though a physique of literature illustrates the difficulties of framing migrant experiences and classes as both short-term or everlasting (see Bailey, 2002, Rajkumar, 2012), there may be an ongoing, Eurocentric notion that perceives all short-term residencies of migrants as transit locations, or in different phrases ‘meaningless short-term refuges earlier than migrants attain their remaining vacation spot’ (Snel, Bilgili and Staring 2020, 4). This could be the case for stepwise migrants within the Gulf, who’ve pre-determined targets of onward migration to Western nations, and who take particular actions to attain that (Valenta, 2020). Nonetheless, this notion ignores the distinctive scenario of Gulf-born migrants, who regardless of being labelled as short-term, are de facto from the Gulf, and understand these locations as their main residence. The truth is, for many of them, migrating to a 3rd nation is seen as a brief step to amass citizenship and finally return to the Gulf with a ‘stronger passport’ (see Akinci, 2019; Jamal, 2017; Ali, 2011; Surak, 2021, 177). This reveals that limiting paths to citizenship within the Gulf has vital results on the way in which migrants understand the worth and which means of citizenship generally.

Conclusion and Outlook

By way of the experiences of UAE born Syrians, I illustrated how in restrictive migration contexts akin to within the UAE, a sudden shift in political circumstances in origin nations, such because the on-going struggle in Syria, instantly impacts the choices and alternate 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 potential to maneuver onwards is constrained by strict border regimes, even for these with sufficient monetary belongings. This paper argues that when migrants don’t have any approach of acquiring citizenship in a bunch nation, and have restricted (or no) choices for residential safety elsewhere, their onward journeys to amass passports will be framed as strategic, however not voluntary. That is notably the case for migrants who had been born and raised in host states, however who inherited a scarcity of fundamental 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 possibility for individuals who have restricted sources, as this paper reveals. Even when these populations have sufficient sources to maneuver onwards below ‘voluntary classes’, akin to for work, larger schooling, or household unification, their motivations to undertake a journey to entry long-term residential safety place them in migration classes that may very well be rendered as “being pressured to depart”. Furthermore, their onward journeys are sometimes described by migrants as a brief step that permits them to amass a (Western) passport to return ‘residence’ – to the UAE – ‘completely’. In so doing, this contribution supplies an instance of complicated migration journeys, and contributes to analytical discussions on voluntariness, selection and alternate 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 akin to those that had been the topic of this textual content as short-term or everlasting, voluntary or pressured, however to grasp what pushes them to hunt different permanencies elsewhere, and below what circumstances. This additionally requires us to carry 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 short-term migration contexts. Most just lately, as we witness the Taliban take over Afghanistan, and subsequent tales of former President Ashraf Ghani and Afghan civilians taking ‘refuge’ or short-term safety within the UAE, we must 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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