Kuwait government officials have announced they will scrap the kafeel labor law, which, many argue is nothing more than legalized modern day slavery. The change will occur next February, to coincide with Kuwait’s Liberation Day, the country’s Labour Minister Mohammad Al Afassi said in an interview with Al-Rai newspaper. (Liberation Day is the celebration of Kuwait’s emergence from the Iraqi occupation of 1991.)
The labor force in Kuwait is disproportionately made up of foreign workers. (Reports say 2.3 million of the country’s population of 3.3 million is made up of expatriate laborers—a large number of these are Indian nationals).
Until now, Kuwaiti law has made this population vulnerable to abuse and enslavement. Under the present kafeel system, foreign laborers are at the mercy of a single Kuwaiti sponsor, who have sole discretion over whether the employee can change jobs or leave the country.
In a Dubai press conference today, India’s Minister of Overseas Affairs Vayalar Ravi spoke in support of Al Afassi’s announcement, saying, “This is a very good decision. It reflects a progressive view of the government.” Indian newspaper The Hindu reports that Ravi “said that he was confident that other countries belonging to the Gulf Cooperation Council (GCC) will follow Kuwait’s example.”
Kuwait is only the second gulf nation—after Bahrain, in 2009—to abolish the kafeel system. Kuwait’s announcement comes amidst several reported instances of modern day slavery. Free the Slaves partners in Nepal see many women being trafficked to the gulf, where they face enslavement and extreme physical and psychological abuse.