Abolish slavery ‘Kafala’ system

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Ahmad Al-Jarallah

It seems as if Kuwait suffers from schizophrenia. On one hand, it has a long record filled with humanitarian and charitable works throughout the world, and on the other, visa traders have been committing acts that harm the file of expatriates, which leads to Kuwait being placed on the blacklist of human rights societies and international organizations.

This is because there are some who are working to accumulate their wealth from the sweat and strength of expatriates whom they bring from abroad after taking KD 2,500 to KD 3,000 from them for the work visa, and then they throw them out on the street.

Over the past years, the demand to abolish the “Kafala” (sponsorship) system has been the most important point discussed in international forums. However, it is unfortunate that the Kuwaiti authorities have not been able to solve the problem due to pressure from influential people, who could either be some parliamentarians who were proven to trade in residency permits, or influential company owners who obtained permits to bring in a huge number of migrant workers. In fact, some of these company owners have 5,000 to 10,000 expatriates registered under fake projects.

There are also ministerial decisions that hinder benefiting from this manpower. This is because some officials benefit from the visa trade by emphasizing deporting them, and then bringing in others in exchange for commissions paid to them by visa traders. We thus have 133,000 who have been subject to the violation of both labor and residency laws as of the end of last year.

The irony is that, despite all this, the daily wage of a worker increased from KD 5 to KD 15, and that of a craftsman to KD 30, in fields in which citizens and Gulf Arabs do not work, especially construction. Irrespective of the presence of such a large number of marginal manpower as a result of the violation of the labor law, the scarcity of labor has increased. Such a situation does not exist in any country other than Kuwait. The Arabian Gulf states such as Saudi Arabia, the Emirates, Bahrain, Qatar, and Oman resolved the crisis by abolishing the Kafala system and adopting more humane laws, thereby ending the suffering that had been an international menace for decades.

On the other hand, Kuwait still insists on the inhumane Kafala system, because there are profiteers from the so-called deep state who cling to this internationally forbidden trade. Saudi Arabia, the Emirates, and Oman have enacted a law that allows the state to sponsor workers who pay fees directly to it instead of human traffickers, and they then work in various fields.

Qatar has abolished the requirement imposed on migrant workers to obtain permission from their employers. Our government can also work on abolishing this inhumane system. It can sponsor the migrant workers, including the violators, after they pay the fees directly to the state or in installments, and thus allow them to work. This will undoubtedly reduce the wages of the workforce as well as reduce the security burden on the state, and also cleanse the Kuwait file in international reports.

Your Highness the Prime Minister, as an economist you understand what it means to depend on migrant workers. You know their vital contributions to the national economy, and how this ensures prosperity for the state. Therefore, solving this problem requires working in a creative manner, similar to what other Gulf countries have done, which today occupy the highest ranks in international development indicators, and have removed their name from human trafficking reports. Your Highness the Prime Minister, humanitarian work is not limited to sending aid abroad. Still, rather the most important thing is to unify the Kuwaiti personality in this field, and get rid of the disconnect between humanity and human trafficking.

By Ahmed Al-Jarallah
Editor-in-Chief, the Arab Times
Email: [email protected]

This news has been read 3656 times!

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