Rights group calls to end kafala sys­tem

Kuwait Times - - FRONT PAGE -

A Kuwaiti rights group yes­ter­day called on the gov­ern­ment to abol­ish its “kafala” sys­tem for for­eign work­ers, which has long been crit­i­cized as a form of bonded la­bor or even slav­ery. In its 2016 an­nual re­port, the Kuwait As­so­ci­a­tion for the Fun­da­men­tals of Hu­man Rights called for “abol­ish­ing the cur­rent kafala sys­tem and re­plac­ing it with rules ac­cord­ing to in­ter­na­tional stan­dards”. The sys­tem pre­vents work­ers from mov­ing to a new job be­fore their con­tracts end with­out their boss’ con­sent, re­sult­ing in a wide range of abuses.

The rights group also ex­pressed con­cern over the so-called ad­min­is­tra­tive de­por­ta­tion of thou­sands of for­eign work­ers ev­ery year by the in­te­rior min­istry. “The as­so­ci­a­tion de­mands that no for­eigner is de­ported out of Kuwait with­out a fi­nal court or­der,” it said. The re­port crit­i­cized the seg­re­ga­tion of Kuwaitis and ex­pa­tri­ates at pub­lic health cen­ters, say­ing it was dis­crim­i­na­tion on the ba­sis of na­tion­al­ity.

The as­so­ci­a­tion warned of the grow­ing “lan­guage of ha­tred” against for­eign­ers and ex­pressed con­cern over racial dis­crim­i­na­tion in Kuwait.

It crit­i­cized the gov­ern­ment’s crack­down on freedom of ex­pres­sion through ar­rest­ing blog­gers. The rights group called for in­tro­duc­ing a “hu­man­i­tar­ian and le­gal so­lu­tion” for around 120,000 state­less peo­ple - lo­cally known as bedoons - who are de­prived of many ba­sic rights. Bedoons were born and raised in Kuwait and claim the right to Kuwaiti cit­i­zen­ship, but the gov­ern­ment says only around a third qual­ify for con­sid­er­a­tion and that the rest hold other na­tion­al­i­ties.

But the as­so­ci­a­tion wel­comed “fa­vor­able” gov­ern­ment mea­sures in­clud­ing is­su­ing a spe­cial law for do­mes­tic helpers and leg­is­la­tion to set up a na­tional hu­man rights body. In July, Kuwait be­came the first Gulf state to set a min­i­mum wage for its hundreds of thou­sands of mostly Asian do­mes­tic work­ers.

In its 2016 “Traf­fick­ing in Per­sons” re­port, the US State Depart­ment up­graded Kuwait from tier three, the worst level, to tier two while keeping it on watch list, cit­ing an im­prove­ment in its treat­ment of mi­grant work­ers, in­clud­ing maids. Around 25 mil­lion for­eign­ers live and work in the en­ergy-rich Gulf states, mak­ing up half of the pop­u­la­tion. — AFP

A woman plays with dogs in a snow-cov­ered park in Vil­nius, Lithua­nia, yes­ter­day. Res­i­dents of the Lithua­nian capital are sa­vor­ing the snowy and warm win­ter days, with tem­per­a­tures of just mi­nus 1 de­gree Cel­sius. — AP

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