At least 500,000 Filipino workers in Saudi Arabia are not covered by the abolition of the Kafala system that eases worker restrictions, including the freedom to change jobs and foreign workers’ right to leave the country without the employers’ permission, according to a migrant expert.
Recruitment and migrants expert Emmanuel Geslani said Filipino domestic workers and low-skilled workers were not covered by the removal of the Kafala system and was strictly only for skilled workers, which was implemented by the Ministry of Human Resources and Social Development on March 14, 2021
“Our OFWs who are classified as Household Service Workers are still under the yoke of their sponsors and are not covered by the liberation given to skilled workers,” Geslani said in a statement.
He said domestic workers were classified as HSWs, drivers and gardeners were vulnerable to abuse and mistreatment by their sponsors in the households of these employers.
The Philippines has urged the leaders of Saudi Arabia and Kuwait to remove the Kafala system in their efforts to acquire Filipino domestic workers who are highly in demand in both countries.
In Saudi Arabia alone, there are an estimated s500,000 domestic workers while in Kuwait there are over 250,000 domestic workers in the households
But domestic workers cannot change employers or leave the country despite the termination of their contracts without the “exit visa” given by their sponsors.
This has been abused by Arab sponsors who refuse to issue the exit visas unless payment is made by the Philippine Embassy up to $5,000 in cases where the Filipino has asked the Philippine Embassy for help to adjudicate her case with her sponsor.
Only skilled workers are allowed under the new system to change employers or leave Saudi Arabia without the need of an exit visa from his/her employer.
Geslani has urged the Philippine government to act on the problem to prevent abusing Filipino domestic workers from their employers.