Saudi Arabia abolishes ‘kafala' system effective 2021— DFA

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Metro Manila (CNN Philippines, November 6) — The Department of Foreign Affairs (DFA) has lauded the abolition of Saudi Arabia’s ‘kafala system’ effective March 14, 2021.

DFA Undersecretary Sarah Arriola on Friday said that the Philippines has fought hard against the slavery system involving migrant workers in the Middle East. This has affected a lot of Filipinos, most especially household workers, according to her.

Arriola explained that the system prevents a worker from travelling or switching sponsorships without the consent of their present employer.

“May mga pagkakataon po na this leads to slavery lalo na sa mga household workers dahil ang ginagawa po sa kanila, binebenta sila, tine-trade po sila or naa-abuso talaga sila dahil wala silang choice,” she said.

[Translation: There are instances that this leads to slavery especially for household workers. They are being sold and traded. They are being abused because they have no choice.]

According to Arriola, the system has made it more difficult for the country to repatriate Filipinos during the pandemic due to the lack of exit visas from employers.

Bahrain eliminated its kafala system in 2009. The undersecretary said that Saudi Arabia abolishing its own kafala system is even a bigger step towards protecting the rights of migrant workers.

“Kafala is a form of slavery and a human rights violation,”she stressed.

Arriola asked Filipino workers to approach the DFA if their employers still refuse to honor Saudi Arabia’s reform by March, as they are willing to offer legal assistance.