Kuwait beauty blogger slammed for 'racist' post about Filipino migrants

Bethan McKernan

A Kuwaiti social media star is under fire for complaining about changes to the country’s kafala system which now give Filipino migrant workers the right to days off and to keep control of their own passports.

In a video posted to Instagram earlier this week, Sondos Alqattan, a beauty blogger and influencer with 2.3 million followers on the social network, said: “The new laws that have been passed are pathetic. Honestly, I disagree.”

“For [a maid] to take a day off every week, that’s four days a month,” she added. ”Those are the days that she’ll be out. And we don’t know what she’ll be doing on those days, with her passport on her.

“How can you have a servant at home who gets to keep their passport with them? If they ran away and went back to their country, who’ll refund me? I don’t want a Filipino maid anymore.”

Ms Alqattan has been heavily criticised online since she posted the video. Users have called her complaint racist and accused her of “wanting to have a slave rather than an employee”.

“Her expensive stuff and pretty face cannot mask her rotten attitude. Shame on that lady,” one user said.

Ms Alqattan did not immediately respond to a request for comment and has since disabled comments on her Instagram account.

Kuwait, like most Middle Eastern countries, operates a kafala sponsorship system for migrants who mostly work in unskilled cleaning and construction jobs.

In many places, it gives employers total control over migrant employees’ legal status and allows them to terminate contracts at will. The confiscation of passports and the extremely poor working conditions endured by migrant employees have been extensively documented by rights groups.

In recent years several countries have taken steps to reform their kafala practices, which Human Rights Watch has called “modern day slavery”.

In Kuwait, Filipino workers were given new rights, including one day off a week, and proper contracts after a Filipino maid was murdered by her Lebanese employees in Kuwait City earlier this year.

The incident led to a diplomatic standoff in which newly elected Philippines president Rodrigo Duterte demanded better rights for the two million Filipinos in Kuwait and temporarily banned citizens from travelling there.