​Conference Theme: Migration in a Turbulent World

​Migration and asylum have emerged as among the most pressing and contentious issues facing the world in the early 21st century. On the one hand, the deepening crisis in countries like Syria, Iraq and Afghanistan has triggered the mass migration of over 1.25 million refugees and asylum-seekers into European countries during 2015 alone (Rankin 2016).  The scale and pace of this movement has been growing at not seen since the Second World War. Most of the countries receiving these immigrants and refugees do not seem to be very welcoming due to internal social, economic and political pressures, and external security fears. The immigration ‘crisis’ in Europe has become a fiercely contested and politicized issue in many European countries, especially in the more traditional immigration countries in the north-west of Europe. 

On the other hand, many countries in the world seem to be actively chasing, even competing for, the most talented, brightest and skilled migrants (Basri and Box 2008). In many countries specifically developed countries in Western Europe and North America have launched special programs to facilitate temporary and permanent immigration of highly skilled labour including the UK, Germany and Canada. In recent years, emerging cities such as Doha, Dubai and Abu Dhabi have joined a growing number of countries with a clear policy to attract and recruit highly skilled workersto fill up labour shortages and skill gaps in new sectors aiming at diversifying economic resources and moving towards knowledge-based societies. While countries in the west offer routes to permanent migration and citizenship, the Oil-rich countries have established alternative systems other than those leading to permanent settlement of highly skilled migrants, such as the kafala system and fixed term contracts.

Moreover, in countries or cities experiencing rapid development and massive construction projects, e.g. the oil-rich countries, the demand for low-wage, low-skill labour is very high. For the foreseeable future, the demand for manual labour in these countries will remain very high, where issues of workers’ rights, exploitation and workers’ wellbeing are expected to remain under scrutiny by the international community, especially in countries like Qatar where the 2022 world cup is being hosted.

The issue of the conditions and experiences of lower income migrant workers within the Arab States of the Gulf has been receiving extensive academic and policy interest over the course of the past few years. However, little attention has been devoted to skilled and highly skilled migrants. This area is severely understudied, so one of the main thematic focuses of this conference will be ‘highly skilled migrants’. We feel it is critical for us as scholars to revisit some of our fundamental assumptions about the nature, patterns, and processes of labor migration to this region. One of the objectives of this conference is to start a genuine interest in this aspect of migration to the GCC countries compared to other countries and global cities in the world. Therefore we strongly encourage submissions under this theme, but also under any of the other themes that will be covered in this conference.

Basri, Ester, and Sarah Box. 2008. The global competition for talent: mobility of the highly skilled. Paris: OECD.

Rankin, J. (2016, Mar 4). EU refugee crisis: asylum seeker numbers double to 1.2m in 2015. The Guardian. 

About the Research Committee on Sociology of Migration RC31

Established in 1972


The goal of the RC31 is to advance sociological knowledge on Sociology of Migration throughout the world. Its general objectives are to promote high quality research on migration and the international exchange of scientific information in this field.

Further information, please visit the ISA wesbite here.​

Organizing and scientific committee

  • Nabil Khattab (PhD), Associate professor, Department of Sociology and Anthropology, Doha Institute for Graduate Studies, Qatar
  • Yousef Daoud (PhD), Associate Professor, Development Economics Head of Program, Doha Institute for Graduate Studies, Qatar
  • Zahra Babar, Associate Director for Research at the Center for International and Regional Studies, Georgetown University School of Foreign Service, Qatar
  • Michael Ewers (PhD), Senior Policy Analyst, Social & Economic Survey Research Institute, Qatar University
  • Abdullah Baabood (PhD), Director, Gulf Studies Program, Qatar University
  • Hasan Mahmud​ (PhD), Assistant Professor, Northwestern University, Qatar


Web Part Error: A Web Part or Web Form Control on this Page cannot be displayed or imported. The type DIPP_SPADECONFERENCE.WebParts.KeyDates.KeyDates, DIPP_SPADECONFERENCE, Version=, Culture=neutral, PublicKeyToken=0951ffa9ccdb196e could not be found or it is not registered as safe. Correlation ID: 15837ea0-9a2a-a064-772b-d2e58214141f.