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Discussion Papers (series)

Regional solutions: Regulating recruitment and protection of African migrant workers in the Gulf and the Middle East


Amanda Bisong, ECDPM paper, February 2021

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Low-skilled migrants from sub-Saharan African countries working in the Gulf and the Middle East are vulnerable to exploitation and abuse, something which has become more apparent and amplified by the COVID-19 pandemic. Migrant workers for instance – and especially construction workers – are exposed to infections as a result of living in unsanitary and overcrowded hostels.

This paper provides an overview of the status of labour migration from the African continent to the Gulf and Middle East countries. It identifies the regional measures taken by African governments to improve conditions for the recruitment and protection of African migrant workers in destination countries.

The paper argues that the African Union and regional economic communities – ECOWAS, IGAD and EAC – can play an important role in closing the regulatory gap in the recruitment and protection of low-skilled migrant workers from sub-Saharan African countries. It explores the options available to regional organisations and proposes a number of practical steps towards achieving regional responses.

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Photo courtesy of International Labour Organization (ILO) / Apex Image via Flickr.

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Migration and mobilityDiscussion Papers (series)