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Call for scrapping of sponsorship system in UAE

Federal National Council member seeks free labour movement and cancellation of costly sponsorship system for foreign workers.

Gulf News

Abu Dhabi: The sponsorship system for foreign workers must be scrapped within three to five years, a member of the Federal National Council (FNC) said.

Yousuf Obaid Ali Al Nuaimi, a representative from Ras Al Khaimah, told Gulf News the existing labour sponsorship system, according to a study, costs the country about Dh50 billion a year to host more than four million foreign workers.

It "must be scrapped within three to five years to stop misuse of the system and allow free movement of workers," Al Nuaimi said. He added that he would be quizzing Saqr Gobash Saeed Gobash, Minister of Labour, on the issue today.

The representative suggested that before cancelling the costly system, rules must be enforced to protect rights of workers and employers.

"Eventually, all foreign workers must be under the jurisdiction of one authority — the Ministry of Labour. Workers must be allowed to change jobs smoothly once a contract ends and no employer should be allowed to withhold workers' passports," Al Nuaimi said.

Employers' rights

He added employers' rights must also be guaranteed, citing the right of every business to protect information it regarded as commercially sensitive.

Last month, the Labour Minister had said the sponsorship system would stay in the UAE. He said he had not seen a country which did not have a sponsorship system for foreign workers.

He told a meeting in Dubai that the government was open to improving systems and changing policies to boost the performance of the economy.

According to an estimate, the average annual cost of hosting a worker is about Dh55,000.

In focus: Water resources

Members of the Federal National Council (FNC) were due to debate on Tuesday the UAE's scarce water resources and ways for the government to address the issue.

Obaid Humaid Al Qutami, Minister of Education, will answer two questions on the ministry's strategy to recruit teachers in general and English language teachers in particular. The questions were raised by members Dr Obaid Ali Al Muhairi and Fatima Ganem Al Merri.