Webinar (3): Migrant and Domestic Workers under Kefala System
Doros Polykarpou. and Martin Baldwin-Edwards discuss the issue of migrant and domestic workers in Cyprus, the Gulf and the Middle East as part of a program co-orgnanized by the International United Nations Watch.
Webradio is broadcasting from central Nicosia, the capital of Cyprus at www.lemoniradio.com
“Migrants in the EastMed and the Gulf Under Covid-19”. On our third installment of our weekly pilot radio show “Meeting Points” (every Monday, 3-5pm GMT), we held a live discussion with Martin Baldwin-Edwards (Greece) and Doros Polykarpou (Cyprus).
During the show, we discussed how migrants have been severely hit by COVID-19 in countries in the Middle East and the Gulf (which has been hit hard by the pandemic), where governments have been struggling to contain the COVID-19 outbreak among migrant worker populations, especially in the Gulf region, on whose labor the countries rely.
Many workers living live and work in conditions that are more conducive to the spread of COVID-19 and many are cramped or detained in (labor) camps. Migrants are also most vulnerable to the economic toll exerted by containment measures, and in the case for the Gulf countries, the oil price collapse. Coronavirus leaves migrant workers stranded, having lost their jobs, and the ability to support their families at home, and neither themselves, risking homelessness. The most economically vulnerable groups of migrant workers are the most exposed to the virus, especially groups such as laborers working in construction zones and domestic servants.
Official figures in some Gulf countries report that more than half of the population are foreigners, who make up 46% of the total Gulf population. For decades, oil-rich Arab countries in the Gulf have relied heavily on millions of migrant laborers to build their vast economies. All Gulf countries operate versions of the ‘kafala’ sponsorship system, which ties the workers’ legal right to be in the country to their contracts, and their employer.
On the subjects discussed, were the rights to healthcare, adequate housing, social security and just working conditions. Governments should protect domestic workers from violence, abuse and discrimination, and with established labour rights and social protection, without discrimination. A side effect of Covid-19 has been an intensification of racism and prejudice against foreign workers.
Martin Baldwin-Edwards is a leading authority in international migration, specialising in Southeastern Europe, the Mediterranean, Middle East and North Africa regions. He is the co-founder and former Director of the Mediterranean Migration Observatory, Athens and an External Expert for the International Centre for Migration Policy Development, Vienna. He is also an Expert for the European Commission, DG Migration. Over the last 20 years, he has been a consultant or advisor on migration for the GFMD, UNDP, UNECE, IOM, OECD, GCIM as well as to the governments of Cyprus, Greece, Italy, Spain and Turkey. He is a graduate of the University of Manchester, where subsequently he lectured, and has been researcher or lecturer in political economy, economics and political science in several UK universities as well as Visiting Professor in International Migration at the European University Institute, Firenze.
With a Social Science background, Doros Polykarpou is co-founder and for 15 years Executive Director of KISA – Action for Equality,Support, Antiracism. He is extensively knowledgeable and experienced in all of KISA’s areas of mandate and action, in research and report writing, development and delivery of training programmes, networking and empowerment actions as well as management and coordination of projects and human resource management. Doros is a recognized human rights defender and expert on migration, asylum, discrimination, racism and trafficking. Also, he worked for several years in the welfare services, especially in the area of the protection of children and women who experienced domestic violence.