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Conduit for forced labour

Oct 15,2018 - Last updated at Oct 15,2018

Labour rights advocates, including the International Labour Organisation (ILO) and labour unions, have a right to voice concern about the so-called kafalah (sponsorship) system being authorised by the Ministry of Labour for hiring migrant workers and promoted for by farm owners and other employers in Jordan, because it will keep migrant workers literally on a leash for a certain period of time, unable to switch jobs or transfer themselves from one employment opportunity to another.

Under this bizarre kafalah formula, employers retain the services of any given migrant worker for a year or so, under strict control. Labour rights advocates call this whole system of kafalah a conduit for forced labour, which is counted as one of the major human rights violations.

Employers benefit from this work contract because it forces migrant workers to accept lower wages or risk deportation or detention. Director of Jordan Labour Watch Ahmad Awad commented that this allows for the exploitation of the rights of a large number of migrant workers in Jordan.

It is one thing for employers to enter freely into a work contract with a migrant worker, under certain conditions that are legitimate and reasonable, including pay and holiday benefits and quite another to exploit such a right for the sole purpose of "enslaving" migrant workers for a period of time and forcing them to accept lower wages.

This whole system, therefore, needs a thorough review on what could be legitimate and reasonable and rescind what is patently wrong and abusive of labour rights. Labour unions should be engaged in a dialogue by the Ministry of Labour to examine this system of employment and come up with balanced criteria to regulate it from top to bottom. Otherwise, Jordan could be cited by not only the ILO but also other international human rights organs as a prime violator of labour rights.

Jordan has a good human rights record and nothing should be allowed to interfere with this image.

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