UN official criticizes GCC sponsorship system

20 Apr 2010

(MENAFN) The UN High Commissioner for Human Rights Navi Pillay called for Gulf states to improve the position of millions of foreign workers in the region and lift restrictions on women.

She criticized the treatment of an estimated 12 million foreign workers in the six countries of the Gulf Cooperation Council: Oman, Saudi Arabia, Qatar, Bahrain, Kuwait and the United Arab Emirates.

Pillay, the, on the first stop of a six-nation Gulf tour, singled out the systems in many of the countries which require workers to have local sponsors, known as kafala.

Some countries are reconsidering the sponsorship (or kafala) system that rigidly binds migrants to their employers, enabling the latter to commit abuses, while preventing workers from changing jobs or leaving the country, she told a small gathering at King Abdullah University for Science and Technology north of Jeddah.

Under the sponsorship systems in place in much of the Gulf, nationals or companies can hire large numbers of migrant workers who are dependent on their employers for food and shelter.

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