Two Civil Society Consultations on the Global Compact on Migration in the MENA and Gulf Region

12.2017/ Roula Hamati, Research and Advocacy Officer and CCRM Secretariat, Insan Association    

The Cross Regional Center for Refugees and Migrants (CCRM) organized two consultations on the Global Compact on Migration.  Both meetings took place in Beirut, on the 24-25 August and 24-25 September 2017 respectively (1). The consultations aimed to bring together local civil society organizations working in the MENA and Gulf regions to discuss the situation of migrants in the region and to develop concrete recommendations to improve their conditions. Discussions centered around a number of key themes including mixed migration, the human and labor rights of migrants, the governance of migration, detention, migrants and crisis, and children on the move, access to justice, information, the use of technology, skilling, and recruitment reform. A total of 60 civil society delegates representing 16 countries participated in the consultations. 


The discussion built on the priorities identified by civil society in the region during an earlier meeting organized by CCRM as well as the priorities of the Abu-Dhabi Dialogue, a regional consultative process bringing together countries of origin in Asia and gulf countries focusing on improving the governance of migration in this corridor, and highlighted the perspectives of local civil society actors.  


The MENA Consultation which was held on the 24-25th of August, identified the need for greater flexibility and mobility in the labor market of labor receiving countries in the region as a key priority. A number of new initiatives were highlighted in this regard, most notably the Bahraini flexi permit system which allows workers to be sponsorless, and work for multiple employers.  Participants also stressed that the needs of migrants and refugees are very similar in this region and that lines are sometimes blurred between those two categories, which requires coherent policies at a national, regional and international level. 


State discussions and practices of "returns" was also highlighted as a major concern for civil society organizations in the region, where the voluntariness in the term "voluntary return" was put into question. Participants highlighted that the majority of what is called voluntary returns are in fact compelled returns where migrants face the risk of detention or have no viable alternatives.  

Access to justice and worker empowerment to approach the justice system were identified as a major challenge where more efforts need to be focused during the GCC consultation. The role of civil society in accessing migrant workers, informing them of their rights and empowering them to access justice was also highlighted.

(1) The 24-25 September GCC civil society consultation was co-organized by Migrant Forum in Asia