July 15, 2024

Citizenship and the Vulnerability of the “Stateless” in Offshore Citizens

Noora Lori’s book, Offshore Citizens, offers a compelling picture of international citizenship, its power, and the plights of the stateless.

Offshore Citizens, written by Noora Lori, a professor at Boston University’s Pardee School of Global Studies, examines the global standard of citizenship and extends the conversation to the treatment of citizens globally. 

Lori considers dominant theories of citizenship and highlights the power and privileges that certain citizenship statuses have. The cognizance of global citizenship standards revealed in this book shows the vulnerabilities of the lack of citizenship. For example, stateless persons in the Persian Gulf become a minority group and are treated as persons of the lowest caste, leaving stateless persons utterly exposed to a lack of protection given from citizenship status and state recognition.

Citizens from the Western world tend to take a passport’s power for granted, especially in countries that allow more significant opportunities for movement and chosen migration. In comparison, stateless people have no passport or ability to migrate freely and are restricted to artificial borders. An exploration of CNN’s rankings of the most powerful passports shows that passports’ statuses are often based on visa requirements and global security status.

Ultimately, citizenship follows bloodlines rather than proximity.

Offshore Citizens explores the reality of high concentrations of non-citizens in the Persian Gulf. It documents how identification and access to legal status are not translated into an inherent right based on where you were born. Rather, economic privilege is still a consideration for status in terms of citizenship. As is unpacked in the text, the unequal status of women within the Middle East is also a consideration for citizenship. Women are still unable to pass citizenship on to their children unless they are married to a man of the same or greater status. Ultimately, it follows bloodlines rather than proximity. 

The case study Lori conducts in her book utilizes Emirati interviews and archival sources to build on how temporary residency can transition into permanent legal status. However, the process is extensive and expensive. To achieve this understanding, Lori makes comparisons to the citizenship process in the United Arab Emirates versus the United States. The breakdown of this process gives a greater understanding of how citizenship is received and conducted in the United States. The global naturalization process and statistics reveal how difficult it is to obtain citizenship status. Offshore Citizens discusses naturalization in terms of citizenship rights and practices. This book explicates the privilege of Western countries’ perspectives and access to citizenship. Lori then effectively draws comparisons to the harsher realities of the process to achieve citizenship status in other regions, such as the Persian Gulf.

The evidence provided in this book exhibits the power that could come from transitioning domestic minorities into “foreign” residents.

The evidence provided in this book exhibits the power that could come from transitioning domestic minorities into “foreign” residents. Achieving this through the political tactic of outsourcing passports as it provides conditional inclusion. By using the strategy of labeling minorities as pending citizens and providing them with some conditional rights, such as the right to work but not the rights of other citizens benefits,  allows countries to reap the rewards of pending citizenship. The benefits that the government receives are a larger labor force and a new avenue of taxation, without having to provide the full benefits of naturalization.

These discussions are significant for realizing the lack of awareness of the antiquated naturalization laws that are still in effect. This book is an essential read for anyone interested in International Relations, especially within the Middle East. It implicates the various processes and oversights of the citizenship process and exposes the vulnerability of stateless persons. Lori concludes her phenomenal book by expressing that citizenship can only really be known in its absence, as the absence of citizenship status allows for exposure to the realities of a harsh life with no protection.

Book Citation: 

Lori, Noora. Offshore Citizens: Permanent Temporary Status in the Gulf. Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 2019. doi:10.1017/9781108632560.

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