Seeking Better Quality of Life, Many Arabs Move From Europe to Gulf Countries 

Many Arabs with European citizenship who left for the Gulf cited high taxes in Europe and struggles to maintain their religious traditions 

By Hudhaifa Ebrahim/The Media Line 

Gulf Cooperation Council countries are experiencing a wave of immigration from Europe, with people of European origin as well as Arab immigrants who recently obtained European passports deciding to move to the Gulf. 

Official statistics indicate an increase in the number of European citizens by more than 30% in some Gulf countries. The number of European immigrants began to increase in 2023 and the beginning of 2024. 

Some immigrants had previously been living in Gulf countries before moving to Europe and chose to leave Europe after failing to integrate. Struggles in integrating had to do with religious rituals, Islamophobia, anti-Arab racism, and LGBT acceptance. Others left European countries due to economic problems and high taxes, seeking the luxurious lifestyles available in the Gulf. 

GCC countries are attractive to many immigrants because of the ease of doing business there and major ongoing economic projects in the countries. Many of the countries offer “golden visas,” which provide residency for investors, entrepreneurs, and highly skilled workers. 

Laws in Saudi Arabia, the United Arab Emirates, Bahrain, and Qatar grant “golden residency” to prospective migrants with advanced degrees, the creative and talented, local property owners, and those with a monthly income exceeding $10,000. Migrants who fall into one of these categories are granted renewable permanent residency for 10 years. 

Official population statistics in Gulf countries showed a 3% to 5% increase in foreigners. Migration from Asian countries such as India and Bangladesh fell, while migration from other nationalities increased. 

Mustafa Ibrahim, a Swiss citizen of Iraqi origin, ended up living in Oman after moving to Europe. 

“I was working in the Sultanate of Oman, but I could not obtain Omani citizenship,” he told The Media Line. “Therefore, I went to live with my sister in Switzerland and obtained Swiss citizenship. Now I am returning to work in the Sultanate of Oman again.” 

Ibrahim said he moved back to Oman after facing difficulty living as a Muslim in Switzerland. “I have a son and a daughter,” he said. “I could not raise them there according to Islamic traditions. My daughter was subjected to racism repeatedly because she wore the hijab and was expelled from more than one school because she refused to wear a swimsuit, which is considered forbidden in front of men in the Islamic religion.” 

Ibrahim, who works as a mechanics professor, said that he receives a lower salary in Oman than he did in Switzerland. “But life here is better,” he said. “The Omanis are like me.” 

Bassem Al-Taie, a German citizen of Syrian origin, had been living in Germany since 1993, working as a civil engineer. Facing an insufficient salary and a tax rate of 40%, he recently chose to leave Germany for Dubai. 

“I have German citizenship. No one can ask me to leave, and if that happens, I can live in Germany again,” he told The Media Line. “Here, I can save at least 30% of my salary and live in luxury. There is only value-added tax here.” 

Muhammad Rafi, another German citizen of Syrian origins, also experienced increased quality of life after moving to the Gulf. 

“In Germany, you cannot get rich, nor live in great luxury,” he told The Media Line. “The regime seeks for everyone to be at a certain income level.” 

“I opened my own pharmacy in Saudi Arabia, and I only pay some taxes, such as value-added taxes or high electricity, but with the income I achieve monthly, I can live with great luxury,” he said. 

He also noted that his Saudi Arabia neighborhood is safer than his old neighborhood in Germany, where crime and drug use were widespread. 

Robert, a Scottish citizen and news presenter who asked not to be identified by his full name, has been living in Bahrain for 30 years and is taking advantage of the low tax rates. 

“I do not intend to return to Scotland,” he told The Media Line. “The atmosphere here is beautiful, life is simple, and I do not have to pay high taxes to live.” 

He noted that his sister also lives in Bahrain and works as an engineer. “She gets a lower salary than she gets in Scotland, but she owns a car and does not pay taxes, and she can live freely,” he said. 

“Living here is better,” Robert said. “It is true that the climate is hot, but you can adapt to it, and in any way, it is better than the cold of Scotland.” 

Yazan Al-Sayed, a Swedish citizen of Palestinian origins, left Sweden after developing health problems. 

“There we do not see the sun, and I contracted many diseases,” he told The Media Line. “Here I see the sun, and I can use the air conditioner in the extreme heat.” 

He no longer has access to the social security he had in Sweden, but his income from the financial services company he established is sufficient, he said. 

“I will certainly not receive a retirement salary, but the money I have saved can provide me with a decent life after I reach 60 years old,” Al-Sayed said. “My five children also live a luxurious life here and have adapted to society.” 

Saudi economist Mohammad Al Sabban told The Media Line that Gulf countries’ immigration policies are welcoming to foreigners. He noted that more than half of the residents in Kuwait, Bahrain, and Oman are foreigners. In Saudi Arabia, he said, approximately one-third of residents are foreigners, and in Qatar and the UAE, more than 85% are. 

“Most of those who returned to live in the GCC are experienced people, and they enjoy great privileges,” Al Sabban said. “Many foreign companies, whether European or Asian, operate in the Gulf countries and they are certainly looking for such expertise.” 

While many African and Asian migrants to Gulf countries save more than 80% of their salaries to send back to their home countries, migrants from European countries often spend more than 70% of their income, Al Sabban said. 

Basil Rahman, a German lawyer of Syrian origin, told The Media Line that the legal consequences of this phenomenon are still unclear. While there is currently no penalty for immigrants to Europe who choose to live in Gulf countries, that may change, he said. 

“The trend in European countries is toward the extreme right, which rejects Arabs and immigrants,” Rahman said. “Laws may be issued to withdraw nationalities and return immigrants to their countries.” 

He said that laws may change to no longer provide European citizenship to children of Europeans who are born abroad, or to exclude new immigrants or citizens who don’t pay taxes from social security or even basic government services. 

“All of this is expected, but so far, there is nothing,” Rahman said. 

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