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The “Humane Economy”: Migrant Labour and Islam in Qatar and the UAE

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The Gulf region has emerged as one of the largest hubs of international migration and more recently has also become a site of contestation for debates over the treatment of international labour migrants. This paper reviews the labour migration system in Qatar and the United Arab Emirates, studies the unfolding human rights discourse on Gulf migration, and examines how Islamic principles might be applied to the labour reforms taking place in these countries. The paper suggests that there is a fragmented landscape around the human rights discourse of migrant workers globally. There are also tensions around the adoption of international human rights norms as a framework for addressing the vulnerabilities of Gulf migrants. In conclusion, the paper argues that the category of current Gulf labour migrant is best served if placed within the Islamic view of how an ethical economy ought to function. Islamic precepts on the ‘humane’ economy can serve to provide guidance on how to balance the interests of workers and employers, and elevate the standards for migrant workers’ rights in this region.

Affiliations: 1: Associate Director for Research, Center for International and Regional Studies, Georgetown University, Qatar,


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