Kuwaiti minister under pressure not to cancel sponsorship system

March 13, 2011

Kuwait’s social affairs and labour minister is under pressure not to cancel the controversial sponsorship system, a local daily reported on Monday.

According to Arab Times, the pressure on Mohammad Al Afasi is being exerted by “some influential people, including lawmakers.”

A ministry source said that those pressuring the minister want to continue to benefit from the current law and the tenders law that allows companies to bring in hundreds and sometimes thousands of expatriate workers.

The source said even if the sponsorship system is cancelled, the decision will come into full effect from next year.

“Until then, sponsors will have time to benefit from the current law which allows them to control the flow expatriate labourers. Many have misused the law and dumped the local market with marginal laborers,” the unnamed source said.

Kuwait last year said that it was planning to cancel in 2011 the controversial sponsorship law which was likened by Majeed Al Alawi, Bahrain’s former labour minister, to modern-day slavery.

Under the law, foreigners cannot enter or leave the country or take up a job or switch jobs, without the expressed approval of their employers. Those who support the system argue it was put in place for economic and security reasons.

Al Afasi, who is spearheading market reforms in Kuwait, was also asked to review a decision that links the residence permit of some foreigners with the validity of the commercial licenses granted to some private companies.

The commercial licenses of some companies are valid for one year and this effectively means expatriate workers get residence only for one year.

However, expatriates say that this limit affects the possibilities of employees who have to travel to GCC and other countries “as visas are issued only if the residence period is valid for at least six months from the date of applying.”

Hence, after the first six months of residence renewal, they are forced either to cancel their travel plans, postpone their trips or cancel the existing residence and get a new one.

The expatriates said that their nature of work requires them to travel to their companies’ branches in other countries and sometimes to attend conferences and training programmes.

Some of them said they travel to Saudi Arabia by road, but the visa is not stamped if the residence is not valid for six months months.

They called on the minister to revert to the old law which was in effect before the automation and allowed workers to get residence permits valid for two to three years and enabled them to travel for work or for Hajj and Umrah without having to renew residence every six months, the daily said.




About the author

Born August 3, 1960 in Monastir, Tunisia
Media career:
  • ABC News (Tunisia)
  • Bahrain Tribune
  • Gulf News
  • Bahrain Television News
Teaching career:
  • Monastir (Tunisia)
  • University of Bahrain
  • MA  Mass Communications, University of Leicester
  • BA  in English & US literature and studies, University of Tunis

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