What is Kafala?

The Kafala (Sponsorship) System, which emerged in the 1950’s, is a legal structure used to monitor migrant workers. This system is implemented in countries of the Gulf Cooperation Council and a few Arab states. It outlines the relationship between foreign laborers and their employers. The system requires that each migrant worker be sponsored by a Kafeel- an individual who is a citizen of the receiving country and responsible for the worker’s legal status and travel visa. The Kafeel has the power transfer a worker’s sponsorship from one employer to another without their consent, as well as repatriate the worker and ban them from traveling back into the country on any grounds. On the other hand, a migrant worker is unable to enter the country, transfer their sponsorship, or leave the country for any reason without the written consent of the Kafeel. 

The Kafala System creates an unhealthy power dynamic between the migrant worker and the Kafeel, allowing for the oppression of migrant workers. Foreign workers are routinely excluded from the country’s labor laws and mistreated by their direct employers. It is not uncommon to hear complaints of physical and mental abuse, neglect, inhumane working hours, inhumane living conditions and much more. The Kafala System continues to be the reason many migrant workers find themselves in vulnerable and hopeless situations. By raising awareness of the Kafala System we hope to encourage change, specifically the inclusion of all migrant workers in the labor laws. With enough progression, our end goal is to abolish the system as a whole.