Faculty-student research highlights impact of COVID-19 on migrants

October 27, 2020

A new research project exploring the consequences of the COVID-19 pandemic on the lives and livelihoods of migrants in Qatar is being led by Hasan Mahmud, assistant professor at Northwestern Qatar, with the help of three students from the University.

Mahmud’s work deals primarily with migrants in Qatar while his teaching and research addresses broader topics in sociological theory, identity politics, global ethnography, and international migration and development. This latest project, funded by the Undergraduate Research Experience Program of the Qatar National Research Fund, contributes to this literature by adding empirical emphasis to the study of migrant workers in the country.

According to Mahmud, the aim of the project, which is titled “Surviving the Covid-19 Pandemic: Socio-cultural impacts of coronavirus outbreak on migrants in Qatar,” is to highlight the need to recognize migrants “as both the victims and integral part of any effective public health response.” 

While everybody is vulnerable to the pandemic, "migrants are the most affected segment of the population due to their involvement in the essential sectors of the economy,” Mahmud said, explaining that their overwhelming participation in the healthcare, food, entertainment, and transportation industries, not just in Qatar but in most cities of the world, is a well-known fact. 

“This country owes a great deal to the migrant population,” said Princess Collado, one of the three student researchers in the project. “Most of the progress we see now would not have been met if it weren’t for them, and it is only right to be able to repay them what is due,” she added. Like the other participating students, Collado hopes that the project will represent “the first few steps toward taking action to improve the quality of living for Qatar's migrant residents.”

“ Migrants are the most affected segment of the population due to their involvement in the essential sectors of the economy.”
- Hasan Mahmud, assistant professor at Northwestern Qatar,

To build a knowledge base on this subject matter, and promote public safety and self-reliance among this community in Qatar, the project is guided by several objectives, including identifying “the critical service sectors” in which these migrants are situated and examining the extent to which they are affected by the lockdown measures that were put in place by local authorities.

Other objectives include investigating “the strategies migrants take to cope with the added health risks and public wellness measures” as well as the “social and cultural challenges” they encounter in their line of work. Knowledge about these factors, Mahmud said, will allow the team to “offer ideas about potential measures to improve their services as well their safety so that they can, in turn, enhance the safety and health of everyone else in Qatar.”

Given the nature of the labor market, however, “access to migrants is a major challenge.” To navigate these hurdles, Mahmud explained, “we will approach migrants from three countries with researchers from co-ethnic/national backgrounds, who share their culture and language.”

To this end, student researchers will get theoretical training and practical application of survey and textual analysis, in-depth interviews, transcribing interviews and analysis of qualitative data. In addition, Mahmud said, students involved in the project will learn how to prepare for academic conferences, or “the art of presenting research findings to academic and professional audience,” and practice “how to write article manuscripts from their research findings” and identify appropriate academic journals for publication.

“I am very much looking forward to pursuing the research because it provides me the opportunity for learning more about conducting a qualitative study which will include a series of processes like data collection, reflection, literature reviews, and data analysis,” said Bishal Sharma,” who is participating in the project as a student.

The student researchers also said that they are optimistic about the potential effect of the project on the condition of migrants in Qatar. Safin Hasan, one of the students, said: “I’m hopeful that this research will contribute to a better understanding of the impact the pandemic brought to the migrant community, which can contribute to a more effective response in the future.”