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Saudi Arabia: Sponsorship System for Foreign Workers Will Not Be Abolished

(Jan. 25, 2011) On January 21, 2011, the Minister of Labor of Saudi Arabia announced that the government has no intention of abolishing the sponsorship system in the Kingdom. Known as kafala, the sponsorship system includes a pledge by employers to physically and legally protect and financially support a foreign worker. However, the Minister stated that there is a plan to promote the hiring of Saudi nationals instead of foreign laborers. The plan includes an array of legislative measures that provide the private sector with special incentives to hire Saudi nationals. The Ministry of Labor will also impose tougher sanctions against Saudi corporations that violate the Saudi visa system designed to regulate how foreign workers are brought into the country.

In collaboration with the Ministry of the Interior (equivalent to the Department of Homeland Security), the Ministry of Labor will adopt a new initiative to combat the abuse of foreign workers by encouraging the public to report instances of such abuses. In addition, according to the Minister of Labor, his Ministry will work to establish unified guidelines concerning procedures to issue work permits for foreign workers. (Majed Asery & Abdulah Al Zahrani, There Is No Intention of Abolishing the Sponsorship System and Changing Information in Workers' Visas Is Considered Fraud [in Arabic], AL MADINA (Jan. 21, 2011),