Migrant Forum in Asia
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New Law to Abolish Sponsor System, says Al-Gosaibi

JEDDAH, Saudi Arabia: A new law abolishing the sponsorship system and streamlining the relationship between employers and their workers will be issued “very soon,” Al-Madinah daily reported yesterday quoting a Shoura Council member. The Shoura member, who requested anonymity, however, pointed out that the new law to be passed by higher authorities would be based on the proposals of the Labor Ministry and not of the National Society of Human Rights (NSHR).

“Labor Minister Dr. Ghazi Al-Gosaibi told a Shoura session that his ministry had presented its viewpoints regarding cancelation of the sponsorship rules and that the law would be issued very soon,” the Shoura member said.

In a close-door session of the 150-member Shoura, Al-Gosaibi disclosed his ministry’s plan to establish specialized companies to organize foreign work force and supervise the signing of contracts between employers and workers.

NSHR President Bandar Al-Hajjar said last week that the rights watchdog had presented to authorities a proposal to establish a government commission to look after guest workers. He also called for the abolition of the sponsorship system. “There was no coordination between NSHR and the Labor Ministry or any other party on preparing a study on cancellation of the sponsorship system,” Al-Hajjar said while commenting on the Shoura member’s statement.

The Labor Ministry is the legitimate agency to organize the affairs of foreign workers, he added.

Al-Hajjar said he had no information whether the Labor Ministry had prepared a similar study on the subject or not. The NSHR held last year a seminar on the rights of Saudi employers and foreign workers in the light of the sponsorship system, he said. Officials from the Ministries of Interior and Labor attended the seminar.

“We heard the viewpoints of the two ministries as well as the views of the chambers of commerce and recruitment companies on the topic,” the NSHR chief said, adding that there were differences of opinion. “The NSHR study was based on our viewpoint,” he explained.

Saudis and expatriates have welcomed the plan to abolish the sponsorship system saying that it would give more freedom to guest workers and attract foreign investment. Yasin Alireza, a Saudi businessman, said the new system should be simple and provide greater freedom to guest workers in matters related to travel and switching jobs.

“We all look forward to a big change in the sponsorship system. We all know it has been abused and how the rights of many non-Saudis have been seriously and continuously violated,” said American Edward Flood.


P.K. Abdul Ghafour | Arab News
July 6, 2008

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MFA is a regional network of non-government organizations (NGOs), associations and trade unions of migrant workers, and individual advocates in Asia who are committed to protect and promote the rights and welfare of migrant workers.

It is guided by a vision of an alternative world system based on respect for human rights and dignity, social justice, and gender equity, particularly for migrant workers.

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