The Kafala is alive and kicking… migrants where it hurts most

There is a propensity to celebrate every small reform and new labour law legislation as the abolishment of Kafala. When states make that claim loudly, pressing into service all their PR power, the official line is adopted without much criticism or analysis… until the realisation that old, Kafala-esque problems persist. States then buy a little more time to ‘abolish’ Kafala. Once again.

We see this with Lebanon claiming a standard contract for domestic workers is the end of Kafala (which the Shura Council recently rejected). We hear Bahrain hailed for its Flexi Permit system and that it is tantamount to ending Kafala, so much so that it held it’s Tier 1 status for three consecutive Trafficking in Persons (TIP) reports (despite the issues outlined here). Saudi Arabia now claims its abolishing Kafala in 2021, as a next step to the ‘Premium Iqama’ established for high-income foreigners.

By far the most criticised and most praised case is that of Qatar. Since 2014, we have heard Qatar claim it has abolished Kafala. First by renaming it as a contract system. Then by changing some parts of the NOC requirement to change jobs. Then by removing the exit permit in stages. And now finally by doing away altogether with the NOC, allowing workers to change jobs at any point of time. 

English | October 29, 2020



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