Filipinos celebrate end of decades-old kafala system in Saudi Arabia

Filipinos celebrate end of decades-old kafala system in Saudi Arabia
An alliance of overseas Filipino workers (OFW) celebrated the abolition of Saudi Arabia’s kafala sponsorship system on Sunday. (Reuters/File)
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Updated 14 March 2021

Filipinos celebrate end of decades-old kafala system in Saudi Arabia

Filipinos celebrate end of decades-old kafala system in Saudi Arabia
  • Move will encourage transparency and freedom, migrant workers’ group says

MANILA: An alliance of overseas Filipino workers (OFW) celebrated the abolition of Saudi Arabia’s kafala sponsorship system on Sunday, rejoicing over the historic labor reforms that have given more “freedom” to millions of migrant workers in the Kingdom.

“Saudi Arabia has announced that it will end its notorious sponsorship or kafala system on March 14. Migrante-Kingdom of Saudi Arabia, together with all OFWs in the country, is glad and jubilant and is celebrating over this historic action,” Migrante International (MI) said in a statement late on Saturday.

The new measures, effective March 14, will ensure that migrant workers in the private sector have improved job mobility and can switch jobs or leave the Kingdom without their employers’ consent.

The move will also allow foreign workers to apply directly for government services, with all employment contracts documented online.

“The announcement will do away with the need for a sponsor or kafeel’s approval to transfer sponsorship, for a migrant worker to undergo sponsorship to receive exit and re-entry visas, and for migrants to become runaways or ‘huroob’ from their kafeels,” according to MI.

It added that the Kingdom was undertaking the initiative “to strengthen its private sector and make it more attractive to foreign talent,” as it seeks to diversify its internal economy, which has for long been dependent on oil.

“Migrante-KSA lauds Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman who, in his Vision 2030, is undertaking economic reforms in the country and has boldly decided to let go of the kafala system,” the statement said.

Recruitment and migration expert Emmanuel Geslani told Arab News that ending the kafala system was a “liberation” for Filipino workers, as well as for workers of other nationalities, in the Kingdom.

As many as 10 million migrant workers are expected to benefit from the Kingdom’s Labor Reform Initiative, which is intended to foster “a competitive and fair working environment.”

“Abolition of this major restriction, which has been imposed on all foreign workers, will now free our OFWs from the abusive manners of some employers,” he said.

“It will create more liberal conditions, especially for our household service workers, who were susceptible to abuse from their employers,” Geslani added.

Geslani said there had been instances in which some employers used the system to hold workers “hostage” by withholding their exit visas unless payment was made by the Philippine embassy or the employee’s accredited recruiter.

“This was despite the termination of their contracts or contract disputes, which led some to run away,” he said, adding that the reforms were a win-win for all.

“The Saudi government also lifted the system to attract more highly skilled workers who were hesitant to work in the Kingdom due to the kafala system,” Geslani said.

According to MI, the kafala system had been in place for seven decades in the Kingdom.

“Many migrant workers, local and international NGOs, and even the UN have criticized it and have called for its reform,” MI said.

The Philippines has been advocating against the kafala system in the UN and international fora for years.

Earlier, it had officially partnered with Bahrain, one of the first countries to abolish the system in its labor reform movement through the Flexi Visa System, which allows undocumented workers to acquire regular immigration status without an employer sponsor.

The Philippines also pioneered the negotiation and international adoption of the Global Compact for Safe, Orderly and Regular Migration to protect Filipino migrant workers against exploitation and abuse and guarantee decent work, consistent with President Rodrigo Duterte’s policies for “no OFW to be a slave to anyone.”

Saudi Arabia has one of the highest numbers of Filipino migrant workers in the Middle East, with nearly 1 million OFWs deployed in the Kingdom.

There was a drop in number last year with the repatriation of many OFWs affected by the coronavirus disease (COVID-19) pandemic.


Owner of plane in Sala crash ‘forbade use of pilot’

Owner of plane in Sala crash ‘forbade use of pilot’
Updated 57 min 41 sec ago

Owner of plane in Sala crash ‘forbade use of pilot’

Owner of plane in Sala crash ‘forbade use of pilot’
  • Fay Keely told the hearing that on July 6, 2018, six months before the fatal incident, she emailed David Henderson telling him not to use David Ibbotson again
  • Investigators in March 2020 concluded that Ibbotson was not licensed to fly the plane or to fly at night, and that he lost control and flew too fast as he tried to avoid bad weather

LONDON: The owner of a plane that crashed with Argentine footballer Emiliano Sala on board told a UK court on Wednesday she had ordered the operator not to use the pilot.
The plane — a single-engined Piper Malibu — came down in the Channel in January 2019, killing the 28-year-old striker and the 59-year-old pilot David Ibbotson as they returned from France to Wales.
The plane’s operator, David Henderson, is standing trial at Cardiff Crown Court in Wales, accused of endangering the safety of the plane.
The plane’s owner, Fay Keely, said she bought the plane on Henderson’s advice and allowed him to operate it and choose pilots.
But she told the hearing that on July 6, 2018, six months before the fatal incident, she emailed the operator telling him not to use Ibbotson again.
She did this after the Civil Aviation Authority informed her of two infringements when he was piloting.
She later learnt that Henderson had nevertheless hired Ibbotson for a flight with her sister on board just a month later.
“He allowed that to happen without my permission,” she stressed.
Asked by the defense whether she had repeated her warning to Henderson not to use the pilot, she said: “No. As far as I was concerned I had made my feelings clear that he shouldn’t be flying the aircraft.”
Lawyer Martin Goudie, for the prosecution, told the court on Tuesday that Henderson was unavailable to pilot the return flight carrying Sala and arranged for Ibbotson to fly instead.
Henderson, from Hotham, in Yorkshire, northern England, has denied one charge of endangering the safety of an aircraft.
The court was told on Monday he had admitted one count of attempting to discharge a passenger without valid permission or authorization.
That charge typically concerns a business operator failing to acquire the appropriate licenses to hire a plane commercially.
Sala died on the return flight from France, which he had visited to collect his belongings and say goodbye to teammates at Nantes after signing with Cardiff for a record £15 million (18 million euros, $19 million).
British air accident investigators in March 2020 concluded that Ibbotson was not licensed to fly the plane or to fly at night, and that he lost control and flew too fast as he tried to avoid bad weather.
The Air Accidents Investigation Branch said both the pilot and Sala were affected by carbon monoxide poisoning before the crash.


WHO: Europe the only region with rise in COVID-19 last week

WHO: Europe the only region with rise in COVID-19 last week
Updated 20 October 2021

WHO: Europe the only region with rise in COVID-19 last week

WHO: Europe the only region with rise in COVID-19 last week
  • The UN health agency said there were about 2.7 million new COVID-19 cases and more than 46,000 deaths last week worldwide
  • WHO said the two regions with the highest rates of COVID-19 incidence were Europe and the Americas

LONDON: The World Health Organization said there was a 7 percent rise in new coronavirus cases across Europe last week, the only region in the world where cases increased.
In its weekly assessment of the pandemic released late Tuesday, the UN health agency said there were about 2.7 million new COVID-19 cases and more than 46,000 deaths last week worldwide, similar to the numbers reported the previous week.
WHO said the two regions with the highest rates of COVID-19 incidence were Europe and the Americas. Globally, the US reported the biggest number of new cases, more than 580,000, which still represented a 11 percent decline.
Britain, Russia and Turkey accounted for the most cases in Europe.
The biggest drop in COVID-19 cases were seen in Africa and the Western Pacific, where infections fell by about 18 percent and 16 percent, respectively. The number of deaths in Africa also declined by about a quarter, despite the dire shortage of vaccines on the continent.
But for the third consecutive week, coronavirus cases have jumped in Europe, with about 1.3 million new cases. More than half of countries in the region reported a rise in their COVID-19 numbers, WHO said. Britain and Russia each reported about a 15 percent increase in new cases.
In the past week, Russia has repeatedly broken new daily records for COVID-19 cases and the number of infections in the UK has surged to levels not seen since mid-July.
Russian President Vladimir Putin on Wednesday backed a Cabinet proposal to keep Russian workers home for a week in an effort to stem the spread of the virus.
Russian officials have struggled to vaccinate the population but due to vaccine skepticism, only about 32 percent of people have been immunized despite the availability of its Sputnik V vaccine. It has by far the largest virus death toll in Europe, with more than 225,000 deaths.
Although the head of Britain’s National Health Service has urged the government to introduce stricter COVID-19 protocols including mask-wearing and the faster vaccination of children, politicians have so far demurred.


Queen Elizabeth II accepts medical advice to rest, cancels Northern Ireland trip

Queen Elizabeth II accepts medical advice to rest, cancels Northern Ireland trip
Updated 20 October 2021

Queen Elizabeth II accepts medical advice to rest, cancels Northern Ireland trip

Queen Elizabeth II accepts medical advice to rest, cancels Northern Ireland trip
  • The queen is resting at Windsor Castle, where she has stayed since the onset of the COVID-19 pandemic
  • The decision comes just days after Elizabeth was seen using a walking stick at a major public event

LONDON: Queen Elizabeth II has reluctantly accepted medical advice to rest for a few days and has canceled a trip to Northern Ireland, Buckingham Palace said Wednesday.
The palace didn’t offer specifics on the decision, but says the 95-year-old monarch is “in good spirits,” and disappointed that she will no longer be able to visit Northern Ireland for engagements Wednesday and Thursday.
“The Queen sends her warmest good wishes to the people of Northern Ireland, and looks forward to visiting in the future,” the palace said.
She is resting at Windsor Castle, where she has stayed since the onset of the COVID-19 pandemic last year. The decision to cancel the trip was understood to not be COVID related.
The decision comes just days after Elizabeth was seen using a walking stick at a major public event when attending a Westminster Abbey service marking the centenary of the Royal British Legion, an armed forces charity.
She had previously been photographed using a cane in 2003, but that was after she underwent knee surgery.
Britain’s longest-lived and longest-reigning monarch, Elizabeth is due to celebrate her Platinum Jubilee — 70 years on the throne — next year.
The queen, who was widowed this year when Prince Philip died at age 99 in April, still keeps a busy schedule of royal duties. On Tuesday, she held audiences with diplomats and hosted a reception at Windsor Castle for global business leaders.
Despite her great age, the monarch has politely declined the honor of being named “Oldie of the Year” by a British magazine. The Oldie magazine on Tuesday published the queen’s response to its suggestion that she follow in the footsteps of former recipients, such as actor Olivia de Havilland and artist David Hockney.
“Her Majesty believes you are as old as you feel, as such The Queen does not believe she meets the relevant criteria to be able to accept, and hopes you will find a more worthy recipient,” said a letter from her assistant private secretary, Tom Laing-Baker. He ended the letter “with Her Majesty’s warmest best wishes.”


Longer sentences imposed for Brits who travel to war zones or plot terror attacks

Longer sentences imposed for Brits who travel to war zones or plot terror attacks
Updated 20 October 2021

Longer sentences imposed for Brits who travel to war zones or plot terror attacks

Longer sentences imposed for Brits who travel to war zones or plot terror attacks
  • Terrorists could face 14 years behind bars and even more on license under strict new guidelines
  • The new sentences were first mulled when a man committed a deadly attack just weeks after being released early from jail

LONDON: New sentencing guidelines have been proposed by the British Justice Secretary that would see those who plot attacks with multiple victims or travel abroad to fight for terror groups hit with lengthier jail terms of 14 years.

Dominic Raab, who is new to the post, said the updated powers would deter “those who kill and maim in the name of warped and fanatical ideologies.”

The Sentencing Council will set out its proposed guidance to judges on how they should apply the new mandatory minimum jail term — which became law earlier this year — on Wednesday.

Those who are found guilty under the new category will face a minimum of 14 years behind bars unless there are “exceptional circumstances.”

They will also face a further seven to 25 years on license after their custodial sentence ends, which will see severe restrictions and monitoring of their daily lives.

The new sentencing will apply in cases where there is “a significant risk” to the public of “serious harm occasioned by the commission by the offender of further serious terrorism offenses.”

It should also cover cases where the offense “was very likely to result in or contribute to (whether directly or indirectly) the deaths of at least two people” — the so-called “risk of multiple deaths condition.”

A consultation on the new guidance will run until Jan. 11, 2022.

Raab said: “These proposed guidelines will support judges to pass consistent and appropriate sentences in terrorism cases. Those who kill and maim in the name of warped and fanatical ideologies will spend longer behind bars, because public protection is our top priority.”

The Guidance Council’s lead member for terrorism offenses, Justice Maura McGowan, said: “Terrorism offenses are serious criminal acts that are constantly evolving, and the law is regularly updated in line with the changing nature of the offenses, requiring a new approach to sentencing.

“The council is proposing revisions to existing sentencing guidelines to reflect the new legislation and ensure that the courts have comprehensive and up-to-date guidance for dealing with these extremely serious cases.”

The new sentencing guidelines were first proposed in 2019, when a man killed two people in central London after being released early from prison on license after being jailed for plotting to bomb the London Stock Exchange.

Hundreds of Britons have also previously traveled to Syria to join Daesh before the group collapsed, and the country has been struggling to manage their return.

According to a report by The Independent earlier this year, only one in 10 people who returned from fighting for Daesh in Syria were prosecuted, and not all of those prosecutions were related to terror offenses. Even fewer people were convicted directly for Daesh membership.

Officials struggled to prove that offences took place in Syria due to flimsy evidence from the battlefield, severely limiting prosecution capabilities. 

The new legislation is designed to remedy that struggle by criminalizing the act of traveling to terrorism “designated areas” abroad, such as Daesh’s short-lived territories in Iraq and Syria.


Pakistani-American ‘raped, beheaded’ former ambassador’s daughter

Pakistani-American ‘raped, beheaded’ former ambassador’s daughter
Updated 20 October 2021

Pakistani-American ‘raped, beheaded’ former ambassador’s daughter

Pakistani-American ‘raped, beheaded’ former ambassador’s daughter
  • The brutal murder of Noor Mukadam, 27, sparked protests across the country and calls for reform to Pakistan’s gender violence laws
  • The 27-year-old was attacked after refusing a marriage proposal

ISLAMABAD: A Pakistani-American man accused of raping and beheading his girlfriend, the daughter of a former ambassador, went on trial Wednesday in the capital Islamabad.
The brutal murder of Noor Mukadam, 27, sparked protests across the country and calls for reform to Pakistan’s gender violence laws.
Zahir Jaffer, 30, from a wealthy industrialist family, has denied killing Mukadam.
“The trial has formally started. Our first witness was examined today and we will produce five more witnesses at the next hearing,” Shah Khawar, a prosecution lawyer told AFP outside the court in Islamabad.
The 27-year-old was attacked after refusing a marriage proposal, attempting repeatedly to escape Jaffer’s sprawling mansion in an upscale neighborhood in Islamabad but blocked each time by his staff, a police report said.
Jaffer raped and tortured her with a knuckle duster before beheading her with a “sharp-edged weapon,” it added.
“Her life could have been saved had the accomplices acted otherwise,” the report said, which was presented to the court in a previous hearing.
Eleven others have also been charged in connection to the murder, including some of Jaffer’s household staff, his parents, and others who were allegedly asked to conceal evidence.
Mukadam’s murder received nationwide attention due to a growing, youth-driven women’s rights movement in the country where victims of violence are often discouraged from speaking out and blamed for abuse.
According to a government survey conducted between 2017-18, 28 percent of women aged 15-49 have experienced physical violence in Pakistan. However, experts believe the figure is expected to be higher because of underreporting.
The murder of Mukadam, whose father served as Pakistan’s ambassador to South Korea and Kazakhstan, is one of the most high-profile cases of violence against women since the government introduced new legislation designed to speed up justice for rape victims.
It is typical for court cases to drag on for years in Pakistan, but prosecutor Khawar said he expected the trial to be concluded within eight weeks.
Prime Minister Imran Khan has pledged that the accused would not escape justice for being part of the Pakistani elite and a dual national.