Saudi Labor Ministry began steps to abolish sponsorship system, paper says

The Saudi Labor Ministry has begun taking steps toward canceling the highly controversial individual kafala, or sponsorship, system, the Saudi newspaper Al-Eqtisadia reported on Monday, quoting a ministry official.

The sponsorship system, which is applied in Saudi Arabia and other Gulf countries, raises concerns over foreign workers’ rights.

It gives employers full control of workers’ residency permits, and workers cannot change jobs or leave the country without written consent from their initial employer or sponsor.

Ahmed al-Humaidan, the Saudi Labor Ministry’s undersecretary for workers affairs, said a number of terms related to the sponsorship system are being changed.

One change involves the bylaws concerned with Transfer of Sponsorship, which would be instead called Transfer of Services. Expatriates would be granted the freedom of movement and their documents would no longer be held.

The newspaper said the changes were an indication “that the Labor Ministry has replaced many of the sponsorship system laws with new regulations that govern the relationship between the employer and foreign worker in the kingdom.”

Humaidan said the ministry no longer recognizes the sponsorship system in its employment ethics.

“We do not recognize anything known as sponsorship,” he said.

Edited translation from MENA

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