back to the Immigration Detention Monitor

Policy and Practice Updates From the Gulf 

Al Hidd Detention Centre (Source:
Al Hidd Detention Centre (Source:

In the past year, detention and deportation operations have been on the rise across the Gulf region. The GDP’s partner in the region,, has been documenting and reporting on these campaigns. They have detailed how every week “hundreds of migrant workers [are] detained in searches and raids. Most workers are detained for having inaccurate or expired documentation, but also for often undefined ‘violations of the labour law’ and even traffic violations.” 

Overcrowding in Bahrain’s Al Hidd Detention Centre Amidst Intensified Immigration Raids 

“The Bahraini government appears to be placing greater emphasis on the criminalisation of workers rather than their protection.” 

Since early 2023, Bahraini authorities have intensified immigration raids and deportations. According to the Labour Market Regulatory Authority, 329 joint inspection campaigns were conducted during the first half of 2023, compared to 84 during the first half of 2022. During the same time period, the number of deportations has increased by 400%. 

Activists also note that health clinics and hospitals have been reporting irregular migrants to immigration authorities, despite the lack of any publicly available directives specifying healthcare providers’ obligation to report to immigration authorities. 

Apprehended migrants–including their children–are detained in Bahrain’s Al Hidd Detention Centre which, amidst large numbers of raids, has grown increasingly overcrowded. 

In a recent report, reports that conditions are “deplorable.” Cells are extremely overcrowded, leaving many detainees having to sleep on the floor, and with just five bathrooms in the entire centre, many struggle to access the facilities. Healthcare is also rarely available, with detainees informing that authorities routinely deny access–even to babies and severely ill detainees. As one woman commented: “You can be dying, and they will just be there sitting on the ground floor, laughing and watching you through the camera.”

More recently, several local media outlets have reported that a new deportation centre is being constructed in the country. 

Oman’s New Labour Law 

In July 2023, Oman introduced a new Labour Law. In a report reviewing its key provisions, note that the law: 

  • Prohibits employers from confiscating passports or private documents without permission from the employee;
  • Increases maternity leave and introduces 7-day paternity leave;
  • Considers the termination of employment due to pregnancy, childbirth, or breastfeeding as “arbitrary”;
  • Permits migrant workers, who initiate legal proceedings to recover dues from employers, to remain in the country.

At the same time, however, the law excludes domestic workers, and introduced stricter Omanisation measures (aimed at replacing foreign workers with Omani citizens), including by specifically stating that employers cannot employ foreigners in professions reserved for Omanis. It also requires migrants to pass standard tests for certain professions. 

Alongside this, the law also increased penalties for irregular migrants–stating, for example, that migrants working without a permit or for an employer other than their own will be subject to imprisonment for ten days to a month, and a fine of between OMR 1,000 and 2,000 (USD 2,600 – 5,200), as well as deportation and a ban on entering Oman again. 

In May 2023, noted that detentions and deportations are reported “every week” as part of authorities’ efforts to remove foreigners from jobs reserved for Omanis. 

Protecting Domestic Workers in Saudi Arabia?

On 21 September this year, a new Domestic Workers Law (Ministerial Decision No. 40676 of 2 October 2023 (03/17/1445 AH)) will come into force in Saudi Arabia, replacing the previous law, Ministerial Decision No. 310 of 2013. Critically, the new law includes an explicit ban on passport confiscation–an act which leaves workers unable to leave their employers and vulnerable to detention–and the establishment of maximum working hours. 

In their assessment of the new law, however, question the value of the new provisions when previous legislation was rarely enforced. As such, they note: “Adequate compliance monitoring, accessible complaints mechanisms, and accountability are needed for workers to meaningfully benefit from the new law.” 

The rights organisation also highlight the fact that domestic workers continue to remain excluded from the Labour Law and that reforms have not been made to the Kafala system. “The provisions of the new law have limited impact without corresponding reforms to the Kafala system, under which employers’ control over workers’ legal status maintains a highly unequal relationship between the two parties.” 

Bahrain GCC Legal Reform Oman Saudi Arabia