Mohammed Dito


Center for Migration and Refugee Studies

Document Type

Research Article

Publication Title

Migration and Refugee Movements in the Middle East and North Africa

Publication Date



Although small in terms of land area,1 Bahrain has long and rich traditions in terms of human migration throughout its ancient and modern history. Several natural, socio-economic and political factors have contributed toward making Bahrain a destination of regional as well overseas migration. Archeological evidences from the ancient civilization of Dilmun 4000 years ago are witness to dynamic trade relations between Bahrain and its neighboring regions, and human migration was an active force strengthening the role of cultural and economic interactions between the people of the Gulf and other civilizations. In the last century until the mid of the 20th century, Bahrain has emerged as an important pearl trading center which has encouraged migration to the island from different parts of the Arabian gulf as well as Africa and the Indian sub-continent.These waves of human migration to Bahrain have enriched the cultural identity of its people, strengthened its economy and provided a suitable basis for integrating within the international community. In the past centuries, migration to Bahrain was driven by economic factors often combined with the aim of final settlement in the country. Beginning in the mid-1930s, and as a result of oil discovery, the nature and impact of migration to Bahrain has changed radically leading to qualitative and quantitative transformation of the society. At the core of the migration process is labor migration. In this paper, we will focus our attention on labor migration mainly for reasons relating to data and information availability and due to its crucial role in the overall migration process. Although Bahrain shares many characteristic in labor migration with its neighboring countries, there were certain specific migration patterns that relate to Bahrain labor market conditions, its size and structure. Among the examples of Bahrain specificity in migration is the modest share of Arab migrants compared to other GCC states. In order to comprehend the true nature of the volume, growth rate and composition of migrants to Bahrain, it is essential to clear any ambiguity related to the use of the term “migrant.” This has methodological implications on understanding the migration process and any problems it currently faces.

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