4:42 pm - Thursday January 18, 7945

Abolish Kafala system: rights activists

Migrant rights activists have called for abolishing sponsorship system to better protection of foreign workers from rights violations in Gulf countries.

In Gulf, the sponsorship system is known as Kafala, under which employers confiscate passports of the workers and restrict their freedom to switch jobs.

This file photo shows workers stand inside the Portland labour camp in an industrial area on the outskirts of Sharjah. Gulf nations have relied heavily on the supply of cheap labour from Asia to build their vast housing and infrastructure needs. Photo: Reuters

Migrant workers are often forced to work in hazardous environment for long hours and live in unhealthy places, reports the Daily Star online.

Though some Middle Eastern countries have undertaken reforms of the system, which is highly criticised for its abuse by the human rights bodies, Kafala still dominates the labour-employer relations.

The issue is important for Bangladesh, as nearly 5 million of it nationals work in the Middle Eastern countries—Saudi Arabia, the United Arab Emirates, Qatar, Bahrain, Oman and Kuwait.

“We should start a nationwide campaign to negotiate with the Gulf countries either to abolish or reform the Kafala system,” said Rina Roy, director (rights) of Manusher Jonno Foundation, at a national consultation.

The National Alliance for Migrant’s Rights, Bangladesh (NAMR, B), a platform of non-government organisations, and The Daily Star jointly organised the programme at Brac Centre Inn in the capital.