CHR supports Duterte’s call to scrap Kafala system for overseas workers

Published September 24, 2021, 12:16 PM

by Jel Santos


The Commission on Human Rights (CHR) supports President Duterte’s call before the United Nations General Assembly (UNGA) to abolish the Kafala or sponsorship system that leads to abuse and exploitation of Filipino overseas workers.

In his speech before the 76th UNGA, the President appealed to end the “Kafala system and all other structures that exploit and oppress migrant workers.”

The President stressed: “The Kafala System is one such behemoth that chains the weak, the desperate, and the voiceless to an existence of unimaginable suffering. Nothing can justify the continued existence of this unjust system.”

Kafala system “requires each worker to have a sponsor — either a citizen or a company — in the host country.” Human rights group said the system “gives sponsors control over workers’ employment and immigration status, leaving them vulnerable to exploitation.”

In a statement, the CHR – through Spokesperson Jacqueline Ann de Guia – branded the Kafala system as an “exploitative and outdated” labor system which makes foreign workers vulnerable.

Originally, De Guia said the Kafala system was intended to protect laborers, wherein local individuals or companies that stand as sponsors would shoulder travel expenses and provide housing for laborers employed.

De Guia lamented: “[But] this well-meaning system (Kafala) would eventually devolve into a system prone to abuse as the sponsor-worker power imbalance gave the sponsor the power to restrict movement of laborers leaving them prone to abuse and mistreatment.”

“We thank the Chief Executive (Pres. Duterte) for bringing to light in the international community the plight of migrant workers and hope that other countries will follow suit in speaking out,” she said.

She noted that the CHR recognizes the reforms to the Kafala system which were done by host countries to include contract standardization, allowing workers to transfer jobs and easing restrictions of movement.

However, she said the CHR believes that until “considerable reforms are made that allows workers the right to join unions or enter a labor dispute, abuses will continue.”

“In order for reforms to be made, pressure must be brought to bear upon the international community to protest this unfair labor system,” she added.