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Kuwait to abolish sponsorship system

by Benjamin Millington on Aug 6, 2009

Kuwait is following Bahrain's lead in reforming the worker sponsorship system
Kuwait is following Bahrain's lead in reforming the worker sponsorship system

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Kuwait’s labour minister has revealed plans to allow expatriate workers to sponsor themselves if they maintain an impeccable record after a two year stay in the country, according to local media reports.

Mohammad Al Affassi said Kuwait is determined to end the sponsorship system for foreign workers, a system which has been heavily criticised by many international human rights organisations.

"I am serious about finding a solution to the issue, particularly that it affects the reputation of Kuwait and has highly significant humanitarian dimensions,” Al Affassi was reported as saying in Gulf News who quoted local Arabic newspaper Al Dar Daily.

“Putting an end to the sponsorship system also means the elimination of trafficking in residence and work permits,” he added.

“The ministry will put out several regulations to ensure the existence of specific and clear laws. Foreigners should not be abused and the ones who can prove after two or three years of their stay in Kuwait that they have an excellent record of good behaviour will be allowed to sponsor themselves.”

The comments were made only four days after Bahrain implemented a decision to effectively scrap the controversial sponsorship system and allow foreign workers to switch between jobs without the consent of their employer.

As revealed by Construction Week in April, Bahrain’s expatriate workers will no longer be sponsored by a specific employer but directly by the government backed Labour Market Regulatory Authority (LMRA).

The move, which came into effect on August 1, was praised by human rights groups and embassies but faced fierce resistance from the private sector and the parliament who feared it would damage the economy and cause social disruption.

Despite the resistance, Bahrain’s minister of labour Majeed Al Alawi recently predicted that more Gulf countries would soon follow.

“All ministers of labour in the Gulf believe in what I am saying,” he said.

“In the next five years most of them will do exactly what we are doing now. Kuwait, Qatar and the UAE will be the first to jump.”