Saudi Arabia: NSHR: Scrap sponsorship system

The National Society for Human Rights has called upon the government to abolish the sponsorship system and recruit foreign workers under a Labor Ministry agency to protect the rights of expats.


The NSHR has called for the abolition of the sponsorship system and for recruiting foreign workers under a Labor Ministry agency. (AN photo)

“This matter related to foreign workers is a hot issue, and I hope ministries and government agencies will look into this matter to take a quick decision on the matter,” said Hussein Al-Sharief, supervisor of NSHR in the Makkah region.
He said a decision on the matter would not be difficult, as the Kingdom’s Council of Ministers had passed a resolution nine years ago supporting efforts to improve the humanitarian condition of foreign workers.

Speaking with Arab News, Labor Ministry spokesman Hattab Al-Anazi claimed that his ministry has already revoked the sponsorship system. “You cannot see the word ‘sponsor’ in the new Labor Law. It has been replaced by the word employer,” he pointed out.

Mohammed Badahdah, assistant secretary-general of the World Assembly of Muslim Youth, welcomed the NSHR’s proposal. “It’s high time we revoke this sponsorship system to protect the rights of foreign workers. We have been controlling the lives of foreigners with this system,” he told Arab News.

He said a government agency should take responsibility of taking care of foreign workers and ensuring their rights. “The sponsorship system prevents a worker to get his rights from his sponsor. This should be changed immediately in accordance with international regulations and systems.”

However, Abdul Rahman Al-Zamil, president of Riyadh Chamber of Commerce and Industry, said he did not see anything wrong with the existing system. “There are thousands of workers under our company’s sponsorship and they don’t have any complaint against the system.”

Al-Zamil said the ongoing campaign to reorganize the labor market, to ensure timely payment of salaries and provide health insurance and housing, would make the system much better.

Akbar Batcha, managing director of MaxVision International, said he believed the abolition of the system would not solve the problem.

“The government should put greater scrutiny on sponsors to make sure they protect rights. It will be difficult for a government agency to handle the nearly 10 million foreign workers,” he told Arab News.

However, he called for relaxing re-entry visa rules for foreign workers and families in sync with the UAE model.


Categories: Arab World, Asia, Saudi Arabia

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