'Gulf countries likely to revamp sponsorship system'

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Abu Dhabi, Jan 26 : Labour ministers of the Gulf countries have agreed that the present sponsorship system of workers needs to be overhauled.

"There were discussions about the 'kafala' (sponsorship) system at the conferences (the Gulf Forum on Temporary Contractual Labour last Wednesday and Thursday) and there was broad consensus among the ministers over the negative effects of the existing system," the source said.

The sponsorship system means that expatriate workers can enter, work, and leave the host country only with the permission or assistance of their sponsor.

"It is important to note the fact that there is no mention of such a system in the UAE Labour Laws. The labour law only defines employer and employee relations," the source said.

"Sponsorship is related to the Residency Department. Most ministers agreed that this is not the right system, but people are used to it. There are a number of nationals in these countries whose income is based on this system. But it is essential to find a suitable system that can replace this sponsorship system," he said.

"We do not have an alternative system to replace the sponsorship system right away. It is a fact that the system is practiced, though the law does not talk about it," said Salim Ali Al Muhairi, executive director of the GCC Labour Ministerial Council.

"Sometimes holding passports of employees is to ensure safe custody and as far as changing jobs are concerned, the government is taking positive steps to relax rules related to this. The weaknesses of the system are being identified and tackled," the Gulf News quoted Al Muhairi, as saying.

ANI

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