Kuwait vows to look into kafala system
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.