No rights, No Freedom: The Kafala system and the plight of African migrants in the Middle East
This paper aims at examining the challenges and the social injustices experienced by African migrants
working in the Middle East under the Kafala system. For decades the Kafala system has been seen as
encouraging the abuse of migrant workers and there have been increasing calls for its reform. The paper
reviews literature relating to the Kafala system and the widespread abuse of African migrants in the
Middle East. It was revealed that human trafficking and the smuggling of African migrants with the
promise of employment in the Middle East is one of the major factors perpetuating the abuse of migrants.
Moreover, employers of African migrants (especially those in the hospitality and domestic work sectors)
are rarely prosecuted for their abuse of migrants, and this has given further impetus to the need to
overhaul the Kafala system and introduce a friendlier and legally supported migrant employment system
which guarantees the rights of migrants. The literature also revealed the African Union lacks the
diplomatic power to protect African migrants in the Middle East and this has played a considerable role
in the abuse of migrants as they lack official representation and protection. It is recommended that socioeconomic development in Africa is the only way to reduce irregular African migration to the Middle East, provided such development can provide stable employment. Apart from this, the African Union should establish a binding cooperative framework with Gulf countries that ensures the rights and civil liberties
of African migrants.