The Kafala or “sponsorship” system is used throughout the Gulf countries (as well as Jordan and Lebanon) to monitor and organize migrant laborers, from recruitment abroad to their management upon arrival, and particularly in the construction and domestic work sectors.
Under the Kafala system a migrant worker’s presence in a host country is linked entirely to their employer, with the effect that it’s not only difficult or impossible to switch jobs, but all elements of their daily lives from access to their passports, their freedom of movement, their living conditions, their ability to leave the country, and their basic dignities are all controlled by their employer. And there is often little to no regulation put in place to protect workers against exploitation and abuse. And abuse has been rampant for decades. From sexual harassment and rape of domestic workers to squalid living conditions and work without pay for construction workers and manual laborers.
This dirty secret is often hidden inside of people’s homes or in isolated camps, so access to covering and exposing it is extremely difficult to obtain, which is why the work of our guest Vani Saraswathi and Migrant-Rights.org is so critical.