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International Migration and the Nation State in Arab Countries

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International migration and the nation state have had, in all times and in all places, a difficult relationship. While the nation state is a community that recognises itself as one people sharing one territory and one narrative, international migrants are perceived as transgressors to the founding principle of the nation: emigrants, because they live outside the territory of which they still share the narrative; immigrants, because they are not yet part of the narrative attached to the territory in which they are newcomers. This article will, firstly, recall how Arab emigration in the age of nation-states has created an expatriate population that keeps links with its land of origin. It will show how states have shifted from disinterest and even distrust towards expatriates, to envisioning them as economic resources for national development and construction. The article will describe how development and security advantages, as compared with their African or Asian neighbours, have turned Arab states into receivers of new waves of international migrants and refugees, including a small minority of transit migrants stranded on their way to Europe, which some of them will reach clandestinely. While labour markets and, to a certain extent, societies are open to newcomers, Arab nation states demonstrate increasingly deny aliens full membership and, eventually, citizenship.

Affiliations: 1: Director, Migration Policy Centre, European University Institute, Italy


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