Migrante welcomes Qatar’s move to replace ‘kafala’ system

Global alliance of overseas Filipinos Migrante International welcomed news that the Qatar government has promised to introduce a new legislation that would replace the controversial ‘kafala’ system by early 2015.

Migrante International has since identified the kafala or sponsorship system as one of the main policies that has caused the surge in number of distressed and undocumented migrant workers in Gulf countries. It has long called for the abolition of the kafala system and the improvement of the conditions of migrant workers in the Gulf region.

The kafala is an immigration and labor system imposed by governments of some Gulf countries on migrant workers. Under the kafala, no migrant worker is allowed to enter the country without an “in-country” sponsor, usually the employer. The sponsor is primarily responsible for the workers’ visa and legal status.

Also under the kafala, migrant workers’ residency permits are bound to their sponsors whose written consent is required for workers to change employers or leave the country. Employers often abuse this power to confiscate passports, withhold wages and force migrant workers into slave-like conditions. In effect, the kafala makes migrant workers more vulnerable to abuses and modern-day slavery.

“The kafala system is in direct violation of Article 13 of the Universal Declaration of Human Rights and the Universal Declaration on the Protection of Migrant Workers and their Families,” said Sol Pillas, Migrante International spokesperson.

She said, “While we welcome this development, we truly hope that the Qatar government will make good its promise. It is one thing to pass legislation and another thing to ensure that it is implemented to improve the conditions of migrant workers in the country.”

“We also call on other Gulf countries to follow Qatar’s lead. It is about time to abolish the antiquated and unfair system as the kafala,” Pillas said.

There is an estimated 200,000 Filipinos in Qatar, mostly working as construction workes and domestic workers. By the end of 2009, Filipinos were the second-largest group of migrant workers in Qatar and the third-largest destination of overseas Filipinos in the Middle East. ###

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