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Govt mulling cancellation of kafala system

KUWAIT: Even as a number of lawmakers called for the formation of a special temporary committee to study the demographic imbalance in the country, a government committee entrusted with studying the cancellation of the kafala (sponsorship) system is forging ahead to find a solution that will protect the rights of both employers and employees, achieve public interest and preserve Kuwait’s human rights image.

Notably, many MPs believe that the uncontrolled and growing numbers of expats, not putting replacement policies into practice and lenience with visa traffickers have all led to serious consequences, limiting citizens to only 30 percent of the total population.

According to a report in Al-Rai daily yesterday, informed sources said the government committee, comprising of elements from the social affairs and labor ministry, the interior ministry and the manpower authority, is currently considering a proposal to make the government sponsor all private sector employees and regulate employer-employee relations through contracts to be signed by both sides, with the manpower authority as the sponsor.

The sources explained that the contracts will include articles and provisions to prevent employers from holding employees’ passports and prevent transferring employees to work for others unless they cancel their residency visas and depart the country, with an exception for doctors, engineers, managers and holders of university degrees. “The study also suggests granting employees special residency cards to be held by sponsors and used on departing the country through various exits to show sponsors’ approval,” explained the sources, noting that this would replace the retaining of passports, which is globally banned.

Moreover, the sources said that the new contract will protect employees’ rights, namely financial ones, by mandating remittances through local banks in order to document the process in case of disputes.  The sources concluded that the study is still subject to discussions at the committee and other relevant ministries in order to help regulate expats’ residencies, the demographic structure, setting special quotas per nationality, prevent these quotas from increasing and prevent all kinds of manipulation and tampering with residency laws.

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