All Sorts of Things

Random posts on all sorts of things designed to inform and provoke.

Bahrain: Thank You for Your Opinion – Now Get Out

Citizenships to nations in the Arabian Peninsula (AP) are not easy to come by. To attain Saudi citizenship, for example, one’s parents have to be Saudi citizens which means that even if you are born in the Kingdom but don’t have parents who are Saudi citizens, you have a zero chance of getting that country’s citizenship. On one hand, this reticence is understandable given the significant benefits that are provided to citizens of AP countries; these benefits include, but are not limited to, free education, free health care, monthly stipends, etc. In addition, all AP nations have bulging youth populations and providing all these benefits, not to mention jobs, for these young men and, to a lesser extent, women poses a significant challenge for these countries. On top of these practical concerns, there is also the cultural belief that the AP is for Arabs and most other ethnicities – especially those from Asia – are not on the same level as Arabs.

These stingy immigration policies also allow AP nations to manage the actions of their populations. This occurs in multiple manners; for example, if a country wants to reduce its unemployment rate, it can restrict the number of skilled expatriates by simply revoking their visas or reducing the number of visas that it grants. As I mentioned above, jobs are a very real problem for AP countries and so this kind of policy does carry real weight. On the other hand, just because a country’s citizens are able to get a job does not mean that they are either qualified for that position or will put the same level of effort as their expatriate counterparts – so, in this context, a country may win the battle but lose the war. Another way this policy can be used for the state’s benefit is to remove undesirable elements from the country by simply revoking their visas. AP nations have been known to take such actions on a regular basis and just the threat of such steps can have a chilling (or soothing depend on your point of view) effect on the country’s expatriate population.

Some folks may think that such actions will only hurt the public social activities of non-citizens as, obviously, a country’s leadership cannot revoke a citizen’s visa because they took part in some cock-a-mamie protest. While that is true, what a country’s leadership can do, and has done, is to revoke that person’s citizenship. As an aside, this is particularly easy to do, and sell to the rest of the population, if the individuals being ostracized are a member of a minority community, such as the Shia for example. Indeed, over the past few days, the Bahraini government has revoked the citizenship of 31 individuals for damaging national security. While some of those that lost their citizenships were not in the country, two live in the United Kingdom, and will not face any serious impediments to their lifestyles, others are clerics, human rights lawyers, parliamentarians, and activists, and it’s unclear how their lives will be affected by this development because the government has not announced whether they will be expelled from Bahrain. Obviously, the question then becomes where these people would go? What I mean by that is that these aren’t immigrants who moved to Bahrain to improve their economic status, these guys and their families have been in Bahrain for ages so for them to leave Bahrain would be akin to the US kicking out Clint Eastwood for talking to an empty chair. Not only would Eastwood wouldn’t have any place to go, it would be real hassle for another country to take him since he would be known as a troublemaker. Compound that with the fact that these guys are Arab and, most likely, have beards and you have some idea of what they face. On the other hand, this is one hell of an incentive to stop people from making trouble so there’s that.

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This entry was posted on November 8, 2012 by in International Affairs and tagged , , , , , , .
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