We are pleased to learn from a recent report published in this paper about the plan of the Kingdom of Saudi Arabia (KSA) to eliminate its decades-old system of sponsorship—also known as kafala, popular in the Gulf countries, which requires workers to be sponsored by a local employer who is responsible for the employees' visa and legal status—within the first half of the next year. The workers will no longer need any approval from their Saudi sponsors, and this will make their employment and lives more flexible. The move would be the latest in a series of economic reforms being carried out in line with the Kingdom's Vision 2030.
We welcome the Kingdom's historic initiative which was long overdue, given the amount of hardship that workers have to endure as the system tends to subjugate them—workers are obligated to work for their sponsors, and cannot work for any other employer unless the sponsorship is formally transferred, which is often a gruelling task. They also require the sponsor's permission to open a bank account or even to leave the country on vacation. The seven-decade-long system will be replaced by a work contract that regulates the relationship between employers and foreign workers and aims to improve the quality of the expatriates' lives, providing them freedom of movement as per their work contract.
This new initiative, when it comes into force, will be of great benefit for the Bangladeshi migrant workers who reside in KSA. Time and again we have witnessed how our workers have fallen victim to this inhumane system of sponsorship and been taken advantage of, as it always gives the employers the upper hand. The stories of our migrant workers suffering at the hands of some of their Saudi employers are plenty and painful. And it is mostly because of this system that they remain helpless and "enslaved", and even if they manage to make it back home, many have returned empty-handed or in coffins. We hope the Saudi Ministry of Human Resources will formally announce the major features of this initiative soon and put an end to the sufferings of migrant workers.