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September 1999, Volume 6, Number 9

Middle East: UAE, Iran, Israel

UAE. To protect the labor market, in August 1999, the United Arab Emirates stopped issuing new visas for unskilled workers from Pakistan and India. The undersecretary of labor affairs said: "There is a surplus of unskilled workers from these two countries...hence the decision to ban new recruits."

About 70 percent of the 2.8 million residents of the UAE are foreigners. In 1996, some 200,000 illegal foreign workers left the UAE under an amnesty that permitted exits without fines. However, the Philippine Embassy reports that migrants continue to arrive illegally. One trick is to have a Filipino company sponsor a visit from a worker to a subsidiary or affiliate in the UAE. The worker then stays on, legally or illegally. Of the 120,000 Filipinos in the UAE, it is estimated that 60 percent entered through company-sponsored visit visas which were later changed to work visas.

Iran. Iran's Ministry of Labor and Social Affairs in August 1999 reported that 1.3 million foreigners were employed in Iran, or that half of the 2.6 million foreigners in the country were employed. Most are working illegally; only 30,000 have work permits, and their earnings average about $100 a month. According to the Ministry, the foreigners refuse to pay taxes, and send most of their earnings outside Iran. With two million Iranians unemployed, the ministry advocates a crackdown on illegal foreign workers.

Jordan. Jordan apprehended 30,000 unauthorized migrants in the first eight months of 1999 and expelled 2,500. Some estimates place the number of mostly unauthorized migrants in Jordan at one million. At least 60 percent are believed to be Egyptians, most of whom arrive as tourists.

Israel. Israel received 1,000 immigrants on August 25, 1999, the largest number in one day for the past five years. The number of immigrants from the ex-USSR was 35,000 in the first eight months of 1999, including 16,000 Russians.

"Over 1,000 Immigrants to Arrive in Israel," Xinhua News Service, August 25, 1999. Evelyn A. Juan, "UAE firms told not to bring in OFWs n visit visa," Gulf Daily News, August 23, 1999. "UAE bans visas for unskilled Pakistanis, Indians," Reuters, August 16, 1999.