Qatar to scrap some controversial 'kafala' rules for migrant workers

Qatar to scrap some controversial 'kafala' rules for migrant workers
Qatar has announced plans to scrap its controversial 'kafala' sponsorship system.
2 min read
16 October, 2019
Qatar is relaxing its 'kafala' policies [Getty]
Qatar has announced plans to scrap controversial rules that require some workers to obtain permits to leave the country, and block certain employees from changing companies without their employers' permission.

The tiny peninsula has introduced a series of reforms to its often-criticised "kafala" sponsorship system since it was selected to host the 2022 World Cup, which prompted a huge construction programme employing foreign workers.

The system meant foreign workers had to obtain permission from their employers to leave the country, a set-up that critics said fuelled human rights abuses. 

Last year, the exit visa was eliminated for most workers, but the authorities are now extending that across the board.

"Cabinet has adopted new legislation related to a new law for minimum wage and also a new regulation to facilitate labour transfer to a new employer... and a draft law to abolish exit permits," labour minister Yousuf Mohamed al-Othman Fakhroo said at an event in Doha. 

Othman did not state what the minimum wage will be, but the government had set it provisionally at 750 riyals ($206) per month.

Read also: Qatar unveils 'Arab inspired' logo for 2022 World Cup

"Congratulations to Qatar for announcing a non discriminatory minimum wage for all workers from Jan 2020 and complete abolition of the kafala system", Pasquale Salzano, the Italian ambassador in Qatar said.

He referred to the move as "a historical milestone for the protection for the workers' rights" in a tweet.

Some two million foreign workers work in Qatar, many employed directly or indirectly on vast World Cup infrastructure projects.

In February, the gas-rich Gulf state said it was committed to labour reforms, following an Amnesty International report that the 2022 World Cup host was failing to stop widespread abuse of workers. 

Doha said it was on course to deliver "lasting" change after the human rights group said it was "running out of time" to implement the reforms before the World Cup.

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