The migratory patterns of
birds and animals in search of food (and therefore survival) are
well known. Human beings, too, throughout history have traveled in
search of work. In the eighteenth and nineteenth centuries, European
colonialists embarked upon military expeditions for similar reasons:
in their case, however, it was not only for mere survival but for
exploitation to improve their own lot at the expense of others.
‘post-independence’ world, there have been other migratory
patterns, especially of labor, to different lands. North America,
Europe, Australia and South Africa are destinations to which there
have been large influxes of people. In some cases (North America and
Australia) it still continues. The oil-producing parts of the Middle
East have also attracted large numbers of migratory workers, many of
them from Pakistan, India, Bangladesh and the Philippines.
People from these countries provide cheap labor to Kuwait,
Bahrain, the United Arab Emirates, Qatar and Saudi Arabia, many of
them working on
construction sites, as domestic servants or as waiters and cleaners
These people have had few,
if any, rights. Many are not permitted to bring their families with
them, and nor can they apply for citizenship of countries in which
they may spend their wh"649adult lives. Professionals are slightly
better positioned, being permitted to bring their families, and able
to afford housing and other essentials.
Even their children, however, are denied citizenship of the
countries in which they are born and raised. Those working in menial
jobs saved money to send to families dependent on their remittances.
Recently, Saudi Arabia has proposed a tax for expatriate workers,
but not locals.
The families that these
migrant laborers leave behind also suffer social problems in their
countries. Children growing up without paternal authority often
develop anti-social attitudes. Moral corruption has also seeped in,
for example in rural
areas of Pakistan, where reports are common of unscrupulous petty
officials exploiting and molesting women. This unfortunately is
still going on, but now another phenomenon is also occurring.
With the end of the
oil-boom, thanks to the skewed policies pursued by Saudi Arabia at
the behest of the US, expatriate workers in the Middle East are
finding themselves in a quandary. Since the US-led Gulf war of 1991,
which cost the Arab governmentsry O620 billion in the first year
alone (according to the Arab Monetary Fund report of September
1993), oil-producing countries have been tightening the screws on
their expatriate workers. Some have found a novel way to squeeze
them. The Saudis, for instance, slashed the salary of workers from
1,000 riyals to a mere 300 or 500 riyals per month. If the workers
did not like it, they could go home. Saudi Arabia has also imported
thousands of Bangladeshis and Sri Lankans in recent years to replace
Pakistanis and Indians who had worked there for decades. Naturally,
this has created resentment among Indian and Pakistani expatriates
against the Bangladeshis and Sri Lankans.
At the other end of the
scale, the professionals are also beginning to find the going tough.
As their children grow up, there is pressure to find proper
educational institutions. Although the oil-producing countries were
awash with petro-dollars, they paid little attention to education.
The few universities established there cannot cater to the needs of
even the locals; the expatriates naturally have to wait. This has
led to many expatriate professionals seeking opportunities
elsewhere. Canada has become a favorite destination for many from
the Middle East.
In the last decade,
thousands of engineers, accountants and computer-programmers, as
well as businessmen who worked in the Middle East, have settled in
Canada. Each environment, however, has its own peculiar problems.
Canada’s great attraction is that schooling and medical services
are free. Immigrants are also eligible to apply for citizenship
after three years’ stay in Canada.
But there is a downside to
the Canadian experience as well. There is still considerable
discrimination in Canada against newcomers. Many employers demand
“Canadian experience” from job applicants, a not-very-subtle way
of telling newcomers, especially colored ones that they are not
wanted. Few white people, on the other hand, face this problem.
White doctors from South Africa are immediately given jobs;
non-white doctors have had to go through endless bureaucratic
procedures. Even after passing all the required exams, they are
denied residency in order to qualify to get a license to practice.
computer-programmers face similar problems. Many of those who
acquired immigration to Canada were careful not to resign their jobs
in the Middle East. Thus, after spending a few frustrating months in
Canada looking for a job, they have left their families and
themselves returned to continue to work in the Middle East. Over the
years, a pattern has emerged. People have a tendency to congregate
with those they are familiar with. Some of these “Middle
Eastern” families settled in apartment buildings in Mississauga, a
western suburb of Toronto. Others followed suit. Now there is an
entire locality in Mississauga where buildings are literally full of
wives and children but no husbands or fathers. The locality has been
appropriately dubbed “Begumpura”! (City of Wives).
Again, the absence of
husbands and fathers is leading to social problems. Many children
are becoming unruly and developing anti-social habits.
Unfortunately, the environment in many Canadian schools is not
conducive to proper upbringing, and in the absence of any community
institutions there is no place these families can turn to for help.
Unfortunately, parents who
have been traversing the world in search of a better future for
their children are beginning to discover that they are losing them
just when they thought they had found the promised land. And there
is no place to return to from Canada because they find themselves
misfits in Pakistan, where life is undoubtedly much harsher unless
one happens to be both well-connected and extremely rich.