Saudi Arabia to abolish ‘kafala’ sponsorship for foreign workers, employees

Saudi Arabia is set to abolish its ‘kafala’ sponsorship programme for foreign workers, laborers and employees replacing with a new contract to be formulated and implemented between employers and foreign employees, reported Maaal newspaper on Tuesday.

The Kafala system has been enforced since seven decades and binds a foreign worker, employee, labor to the employer along with certain specific set of conditions and restrictions.

Saudi Arabia hosts around 10 million foreign workers who are essentially bound by Kafala system and are required to secure sponsorship from their respective employer along with an exit/re-entry visa in order to leave the country.

As per the sources, the initiative to replace Kafala system is aimed at improving country’s private sector and diversify its economy which is primarily oil-driven.

What is Kafala system?

he kafala system, meaning ‘sponsorship system’ – is a system used to monitor migrant laborers, working primarily in the construction and domestic sectors in Gulf Cooperation Council member states and a few neighboring countries, namely Bahrain, Kuwait, Lebanon, Qatar, Oman, Saudi Arabia, and the United Arab Emirates (UAE).

The system requires all unskilled laborers to have an in-country sponsor, usually their employer, who is responsible for their visa and legal status.

This practice has been criticized by human rights organizations for creating easy opportunities for the exploitation of workers, as many employers take away passports and abuse their workers with little chance of legal repercussions.