Duterte again calls for abolition of kafala system

Published by rudy Date posted on September 22, 2021

by Philstar.com, 22 Sep 2021

MANILA, Philippines — President Rodrigo Duterte renewed his call to abolish the kafala system, which he said allows the “exploitation and oppression” of migrant workers.

In a recorded address shown at the 76th United Nations General Assembly, Duterte described the kafala system as a “behemoth that chains the weak, the desperate, and the voiceless to an existence of unimaginable suffering.”

“Nothing can justify the continued existence of this unjust system,” Duterte said. “While reforms have been made, the kafala system must be dismantled — sooner rather than later — in the name of justice and basic decency.”

The kafala system, which is in place in Bahrain, Jordan, Kuwait, Lebanon, Oman, Qatar and the United Arab Emirates, requires migrant workers to be sponsored by a citizen or company in the host country. Saudi Arabia previously used the kafala system, but abolished it in March.

Sponsors have nearly total control over workers’ employment and immigration status, leaving them prone to abuse and exploitation.

Duterte has previously called the kafala system “unjust and exploitative,” where Filipino workers experienced inhumane working conditions, were not paid, subjected to mobility restrictions, sexually abused and denied healthcare.

The Philippine Statistics Authority estimated in 2019 that there were 2.2 million Filipinos working abroad, whose remittances help buoy the Philippine economy.

One in five Filipino workers are in Saudi Arabia, while 13.2% of them are in the UAE, according to the PSA. — Xave Gregorio

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