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Kuwait to get rid of kefala system 27, September 2010

Posted by thegulfblog.com in Kuwait.
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Kuwait is to get rid of its kafala sponsorship system for hiring foreign workers. The kafala system operates by making foreign workers use a local sponsor. This, in conjunction, with a wide-spread ethos that sees domestic servants, drivers and nannies as property and not as human beings, has led to decades of atrocious human rights abuses not only in Kuwait but throughout the Gulf.

It is hoped that this will make it easier for workers to change jobs as opposed to previously when this was practically impossible either legally or because the previous employer held the worker’s passport. The kefala system has – with very good reason – been described as modern-day slavery. However, while obviously a step in the right direction, clearly, this will not be a panacea to continued human rights abuses in Kuwait: culture cannot change overnight.

Bahrain got rid of its kefala system in 2009, much to the anger of its business community. Kuwait authorities said that they were scrapping this system “as a gift to foreign workers on the anniversary of Kuwait’s liberation.”

The other Gulf countries still practice the kafala system.

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Comments»

1. xoussef - 27, September 2010

Yes, culture cannot change overnight, but I would think the role of a government is to curtail wrong practices, not give a legal and formal environment for them to thrive.
Image-conscious gulf states should have repelled or changed this system long ago, if for nothing than what harm it does to their image abroad (human rights aren’t the issue of course, or the system wouldn’t exist for so long).

davidbroberts - 27, September 2010

You make a good point re: the image of it, but just think of the flip-side of that: of how entrenched and ‘wanted’ the system must have been for Gulf states to keep such a manifestly unfair, hated and unpopular system.

2. mohammed ejaz - 27, September 2010

lol….whats the catch? theres gotta be a catch!

davidbroberts - 27, September 2010

Now THAT is a prescient comment.

3. Abstract JK - 27, September 2010

I imagine that the ministry of interior will have to become a de facto kafil of sorts…I mean really, how can such an entrenched system be replaced? Immigration policy has to change, right?

4. Fatima - 27, September 2010

The Kuwaiti government has promised to abolish the sponsorship system many times before. See here: http://is.gd/fwnw3 http://is.gd/fwnx3 http://is.gd/fwnxR
Even if it goes through, as Mohammed pointed out here, there will probably be a catch. For example, when Bahrain abolished the sponsorship system, it didn’t abolish it fully and domestic workers are still under it.

5. Domestic workers in Kuwait: 20,000 complaints per year « The Gulf blog - 6, October 2010

[…] Kuwait’s mooted decision to get rid of the kefala system by February 2011 is a chink of light in an otherwise wholly depressing and repetitive […]

6. On Kuwait’s sponsorship system U-turn « The Gulf blog - 19, October 2010

[…] report, Migrant workers trackback The FT has a good article discussing Kuwait’s u-turn on abolishing their kefala sponsorship system. The day after it was announced by the Labour Minister that Kuwait […]


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