Saudi Arabia Eases Kafala System Restrictions on Foreign Workers
Saudi Arabia has smoothened the “Kafala system” restrictions on migrant workers. Under this system, the lives of some 10 million workers are under their employer facilitating abuse and exploitation including forced labor, trafficking, and slavery-like conditions.
Among other Gulf countries, Saudi Arabia has one of the most notorious and restrictive systems as it maintains all the abusive elements. So demolishing this Kafala System will truly ease the restrictions to improve and increase the efficiency of the work environment by avoiding the employers to take control of the workers.
The Saudi ministry of human resources said the Labour Reform Initiative it unveiled on Wednesday would apply to all expatriates employed in the private sector and would take effect in March.
This will allow the private sector workers to change their job and leave the country without any approval from the employers.
The measure of whether Saudi Arabia is truly abolishing the kafala system hinges on ending five key elements that give employers control over migrant workers’ lives:
- Requiring a migrant worker have an employer act as their sponsor to enter the country.
- The power employers have to secure and renew migrant workers’ residency and work permits—and their ability to cancel these at any time.
- Requiring workers to obtain their employers’ consent to leave or change jobs.
- The crime of “absconding,” under which employers can report a worker missing, meaning the worker automatically becomes undocumented and can be arrested, imprisoned, and deported.
- Requiring migrants to obtain their employer’s consent to leave the country in the form of an exit permit.
Human Rights has documented how many employers had forced domestic workers to work long hours without rest or days off, denied them their wages, or confined them to their homes. Some workers had even been subjected to physical and sexual abuse. The kafala system also has led to hundreds of thousands of undocumented workers, as employers can force people into such status, and workers who escape abuse can become undocumented.
So they are asking the Saudi ministry to address all the elements and ensure all migrant workers are able to enter, reside, or leave the country without being dependent on the mercy of an individual employer or company if Saudi Arabia is to abolish the Kafala system.