Kafala System

Kafala System

Context: The recent fire in Mangaf, Kuwait and the death of Indian migrant workers underscores the poor living conditions and neglect of low-income workers’ rights and well-being in GCC states.


• The Kafala system, prevalent in the GCC states, is a complex of laws and practices that ensure the state and citizens hold all the power. At the same time, individual migrants are treated as temporary.
• It ties migrant workers’ visas to their employers and allows employers significant control over workers’ lives, including housing, food, and transportation.
• This system is the root cause of the vulnerability and exploitation of migrant workers in the region.
• Low wages and restricted movement prevent workers from challenging poor conditions.
• The absence of worker unions further silences them and hampers their ability to organise for better rights.
• During the COVID-19 pandemic, GCC states, including Kuwait, confined migrants in crowded accommodations, limiting access to services and deporting thousands.

Gulf Cooperation Council (GCC)

• The GCC is a political, economic, social, and regional organisation.
• It was formed to address regional challenges faced by the Arab States of the Gulf.
• Members: Bahrain, Kuwait, Oman, Qatar, Saudi Arabia, and UAE.

India-GCC Relations

Strategic Importance

• Geographical Proximity: The GCC borders India across the Arabian Sea, making it a close neighbour.
• Energy Security: The GCC’s substantial oil and gas reserves are crucial for India’s energy needs.
• Large Indian Expatriate Community: Millions of Indians (diaspora) live and work in GCC countries.
• Shared Strategic Goals: Both India and the GCC desire regional stability and security.

Economic and Commercial Relations

• India’s economic linkages with the GCC have increased steadily, especially due to growth in oil imports.
• During FY23, India-GCC bilateral trade stood at US$ 184.55 billion.
• GCC is India’s largest bloc trading partner.
• Four India-GCC Industrial Conferences have been held to promote industrial cooperation. 

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