Kuwait mulling cancellation of kafala system for expats

Govt to mandate appointing citizens in administrative positions in private sector

KUWAIT: Well-informed sources said Minister of State for Economic Development Mariam Al-Aqeel will soon head a ministerial meeting to discuss cancelling the kafala (sponsorship) system for expats as part of measures to be taken by the government to resolve the demographic and labor market imbalances. Kuwaiti rights groups have long called on the government to abolish its kafala system for expats, which has long been criticized as a form of bonded labor.

The sources added that the government is fully convinced of the need to cancel the sponsorship system in a bid to fight visa trafficking after previous attempts failed. The sources also noted that cancelling expats’ sponsorship will improve Kuwait’s ranking on the lists of international organizations such as the International Labour Organization and human rights groups.

The sources stressed that the new system after cancelling the kafala system will be closely related to the policies of replacing expats with Kuwaitis, namely in administrative positions in the private sector, which reflects the government’s measures to replace all expats in the public sector with citizens within five years.

The sources explained that Kuwait will follow Saudi Arabia’s experience in this regard and mandate the appointment of citizens in administrative positions in the private sector and that companies which do not comply will have to pay special taxes.

Different forms of kafala systems are in force in the all Gulf states and some other Arab countries. The system is highly criticized by activists and human rights group for exploiting workers and denying them basic rights, such as the ability to travel or change jobs. Employers often confiscate workers’ passports, although this is illegal in most countries.

By A Saleh