Kuwait may scrap expat sponsor system


A leading Kuwaiti newspaper has reported that their much-maligned foreign worker sponsor system is to be scrapped towards the beginning of next year.

The daily newspaper Al-Rai claims that February 2010 will see the establishing of a new public authority that will deal with the recruitment of foreign workers, and this is when the sponsorship system will end.

Under current regulations all foreign workers who venture to Kuwait for work must find a Kuwaiti sponsor, this system, known as kafeel, has come under criticism as the sponsor then has a large degree of control over the expat, with the expat then having difficulty to change jobs or even leave the country without the sponsors permission. Those opposed to the kafeel have even described it as modern slavery.

According to Al-Rai, Kuwait’s Minister of Social Affairs and Labour said that the end of the kafeel would be a “gift to foreign workers on the anniversary of Kuwait’s liberation from Iraq.”

Nisha Vaira, of Human Rights Watch applauded the plan, but also had some doubts: “We welcome the news that the system may be abolished, but must emphasise that we have seen announcements made like this several times in the past 10 years, without any real reforms being made. What we would like to see is a much more detailed and explicit plan revealed by the government.”