ILO urges Gulf to allow labour organisations

The International Labour Organisation (ILO) on Sunday urged energy-rich Gulf countries to protect millions of migrant workers by reforming the sponsor system and introducing a minimum wage.

ILO also called for allowing foreign workers to form representative organisations through which workers can seek redress for violation of their rights.

The recommendations were issued at the end of a one-day symposium at which two survey studies on migrant workers in the Gulf were released.

"It is important that an introduction of a fair minimum wage be considered," in line with international labour principles, said the ILO, suggesting a monthly KD60 dinars ($215) for Kuwait.

The ILO called for a "major reform" of the sponsor or "kafala" system, which has been criticised as bonded labour by human rights groups, and urged Gulf nations to consider foreign labourers as migrant workers and not guest workers.

In April, UN High Commissioner for Human Rights Navi Pillay called on Gulf countries to stop requiring migrant workers to secure local sponsors, saying the system fosters abuses.

In Kuwait, immigration regulations allow for criminal charges against workers who leave their jobs, while in Saudi Arabia and Qatar workers must have their employers' permission to get exit visas to leave the country.

The ILO estimates that there are 15 million migrant workers in the six-nation Gulf Cooperation Council (GCC) states, making up about 40 per cent of the total population.

Foreigners form a majority of the population in all of the GCC states apart from Saudi Arabia and above 90 per cent in the UAE and Qatar, according to the ILO.

The organisation said GCC countries should consider extending social protection to foreign workers as this would improve their employment conditions.

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