Kuwait vows to look into 'kafala' system - envoy

ABS-CBN News

Posted at May 23 2018 03:44 PM

Kuwait has promised to look into the "kafala" system, a sponsorship scheme often blamed for the exploitation of overseas Filipino workers, Manila's special envoy to the Gulf state, Abdullah Mama-o, said Wednesday. 

Commonly practiced in Arab countries, the kafala system requires migrant workers to have a sponsor in the host country so that a visa and worker's permit can be issued. This means that foreigners' right to work is dependent on their employers, making them vulnerable to abuse. 

In a Senate inquiry into the plight of OFWs, Mama-o said he met recently with Kuwaiti leaders and that, "We have the assurance that their government will be looking into it (kafala)." 

The Philippines and Kuwait earlier this month signed a landmark deal that prohibits common practices under the kafala, including the confiscation of OFW passports by employers. 

The accord also requires 12-hour rest time for workers, provides for a template employment contract, and assures the creation of a 24/7 hotline where Filipino workers may report abuses and a special police unit to respond to such complaints. 

There is no need to sign a similar deal with the neighboring Arab countries of Bahrain and Qatar because both have abolished the kafala system, said Mama-o. 

Labor Secretary Silvestre Bello III meanwhile told senators that authorities are revisiting all bilateral agreements with other countries to ensure the protection of OFWs. 

There are some 2 million Filipinos working in the Middle East, whose remittances are a lifeline to the Philippine economy, according to government data. 

ABS-CBN News, 23 May 2018