Qatar labor reforms, a leap toward freedom: DFA

MANILA A ranking Department of Foreign Affairs (DFA) official on Tuesday hailed the latest reforms in Qatar's labor market, seen to end the kafala system, as a leap toward freedom.

"The Philippines in October 2018 partnered with the Kingdom of Bahrain in its flexi-visa system which is an alternative to the kafala system. Now we welcome the reforms in Qatar since it is a giant step towards freedom," Undersecretary Sarah Lou Arriola of DFA-Office the Undersecretary for Migrant Workers Affairs said on her official social media page.

Among the reforms announced in Qatar is the removal of exit permit requirements for all workers, except military personnel and the endorsement of legislation allowing workers to change employers freely. In addition, a new law to establish a non-discriminatory minimum wage was also endorsed in Qatar, the first in the Middle East.

The International Labour Organization (ILO) on October 16 welcomed these labor reforms, saying "these steps mark the end of kafala" in the Gulf state.

The kafala or sponsorship system is a practice in most of the Gulf Cooperation Council (GCC) states which legally bounds a foreign worker's immigration status to the employer or sponsor for their contract period.

To some Filipinos overseas workers, Arriola said this sponsorship system often leads to modern-slavery conditions, which is why the Duterte administration is one with its abolition.

"The fight against kafala is one of the trademarks of the Duterte administration. The President in February 2018, after discovering the gruesome death of Joanna Demafelis led the charge against kafala, a well-entrenched sponsorship system in the Middle East that often leads to slavery and slavery-like conditions. Kafala is a human rights violation and is a practice that should have long been abolished," she said.

"All workers in the Middle East except Israel (will benefit) if it gets abolished totally," she told the Philippine News Agency. (PNA)

Source: Philippines News Agency

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