Duterte renews call to put an end to Kafala system

By Ruth Abbey Gita-Carlos

September 22, 2021, 1:22 pm

<p>President Rodrigo Duterte<em> (Presidential Photo)</em></p>

President Rodrigo Duterte (Presidential Photo)

MANILA – President Rodrigo Duterte on Wednesday hit the continued existence of the controversial Kafala scheme that monitors and restricts the movement of migrant workers.

In his taped speech delivered during the 76th session of the United Nations General Assembly, Duterte renewed his call for the total abrogation of the Kafala in the Middle East.

“The Kafala system is one such behemoth that chains the weak, the desperate, and the voiceless to the existence of unimaginable suffering. Nothing can justify the continued existence of this unjust system,” Duterte said.

Duterte said any scheme that paves the way for the “exploitation and oppression” of migrant laborers must be dismantled.

Duterte made the call, as he acknowledged that millions of Filipinos are working overseas “under the most difficult and inhumane of circumstances.”

“The Philippines seeks stronger partnerships to protect the rights of Filipinos and realize the full potential of our nation,” he said. “While reforms have been made, the Kafala system must be dismantled -- sooner rather than later -- in the name of justice and basic decency.”

In April this year, Duterte called for the “complete” abolition of the “unjust” and “exploitative” Kafala system in order to end inequities and suffering of migrant workers.

Duterte, in his sixth and final State of the Nation Address on July 26, threatened to order the repatriation of overseas Filipino workers from Arab nations, if the controversial Kafala scheme is not dismantled.

Kafala originated from the Arabic word which means “sponsorship.”

The Kafala system is a mechanism in the Gulf countries used to monitor migrant laborers, usually unskilled workers through a sponsor, including household service workers, construction workers and service industry workers.

Under the scheme, the sponsor is usually the employer who is responsible for the immigration status and visa of the migrant worker. The worker cannot leave sans his employer’s consent, making him vulnerable to abuse.

On April 23, Presidential Assistant on Foreign Affairs Undersecretary Robert Borje said Duterte is “quietly” working with state leaders in the Middle East for the scrapping of the Kafala system. (PNA)