Gulf sponsorship debate

Almost 70% want sponsorship system scrapped...

Almost 70 percent of people think Gulf countries should scrap their sponsorship system to help prevent human trafficking, the latestArabian Business poll has found.

A total of 67.6 percent of respondents to the online survey said they thought the current sponsorship system left workers exposed to forced labour.

The results echo findings of a US State Department report into human trafficking which said employers in Gulf states exploited the ‘kafala' system to abuse workers.    

The report praised the UAE's progress in addressing the problem but singled out Saudi Arabia and Kuwait as the region's worse offenders.

Just days later, the UAE's Dr Anwar Gargash, Minister of State for Foreign Affairs and chair of the National Committee to Combat Human Trafficking, repeated the country's commitment to tackling the issue.

At least 43 cases of human trafficking were registered in the UAE last year, compared to 20 cases in 2008, a statistic Gargash said reflected the country's progress since 2006 when federal laws were introduced.

The AB poll found that 10.7 percent of people said it was not the sponsorship system at fault and that human trafficking would "go on regardless".

Some 17.3 percent called for additional support to protect foreign workers, while 4.4 percent said the system should remain in place.

The UAE government is set to launch its zero tolerance public awareness campaign at airports and embassies abroad towards the end of this year.

Millions of migrant workers, primarily from Asia and Africa, have short-term employment contracts for blue-collar jobs in the construction, domestic work, and service industries across the Middle East.

Under the ‘kafala' system, nationals and companies can hire migrant workers who are dependent on their employers for food and shelter.

Many workers complain that agencies or employers confiscate their passports, do not pay them regularly or deduct housing or health costs from their pay.    

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