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Mon 18 May 2015 02:47 PM

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Saudi human rights body slams sponsorship system

Saudi Arabia’s state-backed rights body says the government’s expat sponsorship system is violating workers

Saudi human rights body slams sponsorship system

The state-backed National Society for Human Rights (NSHR) in Saudi Arabia has criticised the government’s expat sponsorship system as violating international standards.

More than two-thirds of labour disputes raised with the organisation related to the controversial kafala system, it said in a report, according to local media.

Employers were breaking the law by using a loophole in the sponsorship system that allowed them to keep employees passports, the human rights organisation said, according to Arab News.

Employees also were being forced to do work they were not originally hired to perform, were being subjected to physical and verbal violence, demanding unjustified fees and preventing them from getting married, visiting relatives or travelling without permission.

Some of the violations amounted to human trafficking, the report claimed, with sponsors hiring foreigners without having work for them and then “on-selling” them to other employers.

Other breaches included not paying salaries on time or at all, not providing copies of work contracts to employees.

In the meantime, labour ministry offices were delaying investigations into complaints, unfairly prolonging workers’ suffering, the organisation said.

However the NSHR report also found some expats also had unjustifiably complained about their employers.

Expat rights is an ongoing issue in Saudi Arabia and other GCC countries, where they make up as much as 90 percent of the population in Kuwait and Qatar.

In Saudi Arabia, there are about 9 million expats, accounting for about one-third of the total population.