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Migration in the Gulf

This article, published in Kuwait Times, discusses the kafeel system. It also reviews recommendations from the ILO to protect migrants by reforming the system and forming representative organizations.

" The International Labor Organization (ILO) yesterday urged energy-rich Gulf countries to protect millions of migrant workers by reforming the sponsor system and introducing a minimum wage. ILO also called for allowing foreign workers to form representative organizations through which workers can seek redress for violation of their rights.

The recommendations were issued at the end of a one-day symposium at which two survey studies on migrant workers in Kuwait and the United Arab Emirates were released. "It is important that an introduction of a fair minimum wage be considered," in line with international labor principles, said the ILO, suggesting a monthly KD60 for Kuwait.

Cancelling the 'kafeel' system (sponsorship) will drastically improve the situation of migrant workers in Kuwait, and GCC countries in general, but will not guarantee workers' complete protection, remarked an ILO representative. Speaking with the Kuwait Times on the sidelines of a one-day seminar organized by the Kuwait Economic Society yesterday, Dr Azfar Khan noted that certain mechanism should be put in place to guarantee the full protection of workers. Kuwait has promised to abolish the 'kafeel' system in February next year."


"In 2010, there are estimated 15 million migrant workers in the GCC countries. In fact, in Qatar and the UAE, 90 percent of labor work force comprise expatriates, the survey showed. The ILO study found that various low-paid, dangerous and demanding jobs were mostly performed by foreigners, while highly paid government jobs are reserved for their locals.

Dr Khan dwelled on the history of migration patterns and why the proportion of Arab workers has declined in the GCC countries over the past years as compared to the steadily growing numbers of rest of Asian workers. According to Dr Khan, the trend suggested that other Asian workers are more willing to risk and accept poor working conditions and terms, including low wages, unlike Arabs.

Based on their study, UAE expatriate workers have no passport in his/her own possession as compared to 20 percent of workers in Kuwait who admitted to keeping passports in their possession. Based on the ILO survey, 17 percent of Kuwait workers say they have been abused in the last 12 months and that 43 percent of these abused workers want to leave their jobs but cannot do so without the consent of their employer who retains their passports."

The full article can be found here

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