History of the kafala system

  • Gulf Cooperation Council countries in 1800's

    Gulf Cooperation Council  countries in 1800's
    The Gulf Cooperation Council countries were previously divided into sultanates or kingdoms before the British dominance in the 1800's.
  • Beginning of British interest in GCC countries.

    The British defeated the reigning Ottoman empire and propped up local rulers.
  • Period: to

    British consolidation

    Solidification of British control over Middle East countries.
  • Historic decision of Winston Churchill.

    Historic decision of Winston Churchill.
    The then British Secretary of War, Winston Churchill decided to change the fuel of the British Navy from coal to oil.
    This catapulted the prevalence of oil in new machinery and caused demand to skyrocket. Thus British and later the Americans discovered the possibilities of oil production throughout the Arab nation.
  • Abdul Aziz bin Saud declares the kingdom of Saudi Arabia

    Abdul Aziz bin Saud declares the kingdom of Saudi Arabia
    Abdul Aziz bin Saud (Ibn Saud) began uniting the present-day Kingdom of Saudi Arabia under one ruler,himself. Ibn Saud practiced an extremely conservative form of Islam knownas Wahhabism, which eventually became the dominant Islamic practice in the kingdom up to this day. In 1932, he declared the Kingdom of Saudi Arabia, and used his powerful position to negotiate oil concessions with an American company.
  • Standard oil company of California discovers oil in the present day Bahrain.

    SoCal also soon discovered oil in Saudi Arabia, Kuwait, Qatar and the present-day UAE. However, the outbreak of World War II prevented the development of these oil fields and delayed the exportation of oil.
  • Beginning of arab nationalization and decline of British dominance.

  • Period: to

    Emergence of kafala system

    The kafala system began in the late 1960’s and 1970’s
    as the Gulf countries began to import labor to enable rapid development. The kafala system stems from three separate sources of the social, political and economic environment in the Gulf. It contains cultural and historical roots
    in Bedouin culture, follows a tradition of bonded labor relationships in the Gulf, and was an active decision of governments to manage and control theoreign labor population.
  • Oil Crisis

    The oil crisis in 1973 and subsequent price increases by
    the Organization of Petroleum Exporting Countries (OPEC) led to unprecedented incomes and government revenues in Arab states. These states remained under pseudo-British control throughout the 1950s and 1960s and began declaring their independence in the 1970s.
  • Qatar publishes new migrant law

    The new law regulates the entry and exit of the system. It is also known as sponsorship system, which continues to require foreign workers to have sponsors, obtain a sponsor’s approval before changing jobs, and have their sponsor provide an exit permit before they can leave the country. The law does provide some exceptions in which a worker can obtain Interior Ministry permission to change jobs, if a sponsor refuses consent.
  • Period: to

    Five years of promise and halting steps towards freedom

  • Kuwait plans to abolish the kafala system.

    Kuwait’s Labor Minister Mohammed al-Afasi announces plans to abolish the sponsorship system, allow expatriate workers to sponsor themselves if they maintain a clear record for two years.
  • Bahrain's government brings sponsorship of workers under Labour Management Relations Authority.

    According to this law,workers can transfer without sponsor’s consent, after giving notice and working for a period that should not exceed three months.
  • Kuwait promises to abolish the kafala system in February 2011.

    Minister of Social Affairs and Labor Mohammed al-Afasi announces that the abolishment of the system will be Kuwait’s “gift to foreign workers on the anniversary of Kuwait’s liberation” from Iraqi occupation in 1991. He added that the system would be replaced by a public administrative body that would oversee worker’s residence status.
  • Kuwait’s Assistant Undersecretary for Labor Mansour al-Mansour affirms the decision to abolish the kafala system.

    He describes his decision as "irrevocable".
  • UAE decides not to reform the sponsorship law.

    UAE government officials announce that the UAE will not follow Kuwait in reforming sponsorship laws in the Emirates.
  • UAE stops requiring workers to get a "No objection certificate" from sponsors before changing jobs.

    Workers who complete contract periods of two years or longer can change jobs with Labor Ministry approval.
  • Kuwait not ready to abolish kafala system.

    Kuwait’s Assistant Undersecretary for Labor Mansour al-Mansour confirms that Kuwait is not yet ready to abolish its sponsorship system, despite prior announcements.
  • Bahrain's government scales back sponsorship system.

    Bahrain Government sanctions that workers can still change jobs without an employer’s consent, but only after working for one year for their initial sponsor.
  • Saudi Arabia's reform plans.

    Saudi Arabia’s Labor Ministry announces a plan to reform the sponsorship system by transferring sponsorship oversight to recruitment agencies.
  • Qatar replaces sponsorship system wth contract law.

    Qatar's Labor Undersecretary Hussein al-Mulla announces that the sponsorship system will be replaced by “a contract” between the employer and employee.
  • Saudi Arabia plans to abolish kafala.

    Saudi Arabia Labor Ministry official announces that the ministry has begun taking a number of steps to abolish the sponsorship system. “We do not recognize anything known as sponsorship,” said Undersecretary for Workers’ Affairs Ahmed al-Humaidan.
  • Kuwait plans to reform kafala system.

    Kuwait’s Undersecretary for Labor Jamal al-Dosari says that changes to the kafala system will be applied in a few months. “There have been gradual steps over the past few years to change the present kafeel system and [the Public Authority for Manpower] was founded to replace it,” said Dosari.
  • Qatar’s Supreme Committee for 2022, the FIFA local organizing committee responsible for World Cup 2022 stadium construction, publishes a set of standards and commitments for workers building 2022 stadiums.

    However, the standards are not legally binding and do not allow workers to change jobs or leave the country without employer consent.
  • Qatar announces changes to kafala system.

    Officials from Qatar’s Ministry of Labor and Social Affairs, as well as the Ministry of Interior, held a press conference to announce proposed changes to the sponsorship system, describing the proposals as “Qatar abolishes kafala.” Suggested changes include allowing workers to apply for exit permits through an automated online system, and allowing workers on fixed-term contracts to change employers upon completing their contract, without their employer’s permission.
  • Qatar announces to replace the sponsorship system.

    Qatar’s Ministry of Labor and Social Affairs announces plan to announce new legislation to replace the current kafala system in early 2015. “We expect to make announcements about new legislation by early next year,” the Ministry statement said.