Kuwait urged to end labour sponsorship system

Some 2.8 million expatriates work in Kuwait compared with 1.25 million nationals

KUWAIT CITY - A Kuwaiti human rights organisation on Sunday urged the Gulf state to fulfil pledges to abolish the sponsorship system for foreign labour and to end the arbitrary deportation of expatriates.
In a report on human rights in the oil-rich emirate, the Kuwait Society for Human Rights also called for measures to end abuse of thousands of domestic workers and for a final resolution to the plight of more than 100,000 stateless people.
The group said that Kuwait pledged several years ago to end the sponsor system which is likened to slavery and common in Gulf states, but so far nothing has been done.
The current system ties a migrant worker's residency status to an individual employer, or sponsor, without whose consent the worker cannot change jobs.
This gives employers unchecked leverage and control over workers, who remain completely dependent on their sponsor.
A few weeks ago, neighbouring Qatar said it was introducing measures to abolish the system.
The Kuwaiti group also called for an end to so-called administrative deportation which allows police to deport foreigners without a court ruling.
However, it noted that the interior ministry has recently regulated the procedure by restricting the right to deport to the ministry's undersecretary.
Some 2.8 million expatriates work in Kuwait compared with 1.25 million nationals. More than 600,000 expatriates are domestic workers.
The society urged the government to pass a special law on domestic workers to stop abuses that it said are tantamount to slavery.
"Domestic helpers are subjected to many abuses, some of which could be called slavery, in addition to torture, humiliation and rape. The society has monitored a large number of such violations," the report said.
On stateless people, known locally as bidoons, the society urged speedy measures to improve their humanitarian and legal as a prelude to "granting them their full rights".
Bidoons claim the right to Kuwaiti citizenship because they or their forefathers lived in the country before the 1959 nationality law.
But the government says a majority of them came from neighbouring countries after the discovery of oil, and destroyed their identification papers.
The society said the government should adopt a clear roadmap aimed at resolving the problem in steps.