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Saturday, March 6, 2021

Qatar holds breath as official says kafala changes coming ‘soon’

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Qatar’s kafala sponsorship system will be changed “soon,” a senior Ministry of Interior (MOI) official has said, adding his voice to a chorus of government sources who have promised revisions are coming, but without specifying when.

While lacking in detail, the statement, which was published in a local Arabic newspaper on Sunday, set social media networks abuzz.

Rumors of imminent changes to the law have been circulating for some time, but this is the first time a senior government source has confirmed such a move to residents, as opposed to pledging changes to human rights groups.

Official’s remarks

Yesterday, Al Raya quoted Brig. Nasser Mohamed al-Sayed, Director of the MOI’s Search and Follow-up Department (SFD), as saying a new law is in the works:

“The Ministry (of Interior) often studies the difficulties and obstacles relating to the expatriates’ status and can make changes in the law if necessary,” he said.

He added that residents can expect “updates and changes to the provisions and articles of the (labor) law,” continuing:

“Regarding cancellation of sponsorship and exit permit system, I can say that soon there will be good news for all citizens and expatriates, and that it will be for the benefit of all parties.”

Al-Sayed also confirmed that the Ministry of Labor and Social Affairs will set up a dedicated complaints unit, staffed 24 hours a day, within the SFD to handle workers’ grievances about their employers.

Residents’ respond

Reaction to the comments have been widespread, with many residents voicing their criticism of aspects of the existing law – particularly the exit permit system, which requires expats to get permission from their sponsor before leaving the country.

Commentators also called for a “transparent” transition to the expected new system, and urged for law-makers to ensure it stood up to public and international scrutiny.

Here’s a sample of the reaction on Twitter:

However, not all reaction is expected to be positive, as the current system is popular with many Qataris who see the provisions as insurance for employers against any sudden departure of their workers.

International pressure

Qatar has come under intense international pressure to change its sponsorship system, particularly as it prepares to host the 2022 FIFA World Cup.

In November last year, UN rapporteur on the human rights of migrants François Crépeau recommended the abolishment of Qatar’s kafala system and said workers should freely be allowed to change employers. He also called for the scrapping of the exit permit system.

His comments came at the end of an eight-day visit to Qatar, in which he toured labor camps while also meeting local government officials, diplomats and members of Qatar’s National Human Rights Committee.

Late last month, Crépeau released a formal report about his visit, debunking the justifications often used to uphold the current sponsorship system. His report will be presented to the UN Human Rights Council in the next few months.

International watchdog Human Rights Watch has also demanded Qatar change its sponsorship system. In a report issued last year, it criticized Qatar for having a “19th Century labor system” and recommended setting out a timetable for implementation of new sponsorship laws.

Some changes to protect workers’ rights are already in the pipeline. Last week, the Cabinet endorsed recommendations made by a special committee to mandate direct deposit payment of wages for all workers. The payment of salaries would be monitored by the banking regulator Qatar Central Bank (QCB).

The move is a way to deal with one of the most common complaints of workers – late payment of their wages, or in many cases, no payment at all.

Thoughts?

30 COMMENTS

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Lionel_Shaon_
Lionel_Shaon_
6 years ago

Been living here for nearly 20 years now and I seriously regretted Qatar winning the World Cup bid, as that would mean more people, more accidents, more traffic and yes, more crime too. But looks like some good has come from it.

Abdulrahman
Abdulrahman
6 years ago
Reply to  Lionel_Shaon_

Amen to that 🙂

Observant One
Observant One
6 years ago
Reply to  Abdulrahman

Where have you been Mr Abdulrahman? On Holiday? Haven;t heard from you for a while. Welcome back. 😉

Abdulrahman
Abdulrahman
6 years ago
Reply to  Observant One

Thank you. I’ve been around, just sometimes I get too tired of commenting and replying.

Observant One
Observant One
6 years ago
Reply to  Abdulrahman

Yes too true.

Deepak Babu
Deepak Babu
6 years ago

Don’t hold your breath too long. “Soon” should be trademarked as in the case of the new airport opening.

JumpUp&Kiss
JumpUp&Kiss
6 years ago

Hope Passports aren’t confiscated by the Employers (like Dubai)..

Jaded
Jaded
6 years ago

Don’t hold your breath Qatar, you’ll choke! Hah!

Amr ElGamal
Amr ElGamal
6 years ago

The argument of the sponsor’s that they want to protect themselves from sudden labor departure, I think that risk is everywhere. In any country the employees can leave at anytime even if they are citizens, but they do not control it by banning employees from leaving or changing employers, but they improve the work conditions so they retain employees.

Huzz
Huzz
6 years ago

Let’s see what comes out of it. If it is positive then credit due but they are up for a spanking if it is just a token gesture.

johnny wang
johnny wang
6 years ago

It would be wise for them to take notice of all the bad publicity and make drastic changes and the sooner the better it would be for everybody and in doing so they could be a shining example to the rest of its neighbours to move on and do similar changes or be stuck back in time. The policies need to change not because of the bad publicity and the criticism from others but for the country to be a part of the modern world and to hold their own in a free and open society

Glen Henderson
Glen Henderson
6 years ago

Tell you what: I’ll wait to see it … THEN I’ll believe it.

Zaheer
Zaheer
6 years ago
Reply to  Glen Henderson

exactly

Ano
Ano
6 years ago
Reply to  Glen Henderson

what is there to wait… lets say hallelujah…. (for changing the name of the system to “slavery” which will match exactly what it is )

Ano
Ano
6 years ago
Reply to  Glen Henderson

Or I will say , NOC and Exit Permit is granted for those who were here for the last 70+ years …

Shaiju
6 years ago

In sha Allah…

shafeek puthiyottil
shafeek puthiyottil
6 years ago

Good News!

I had bad Experience regards to the Visa transfer process!

I received a Job offer from a Government Co. and resigned my
current job, Later Visa transfer was rejected by Labor Dept with unknown
reason, and I was jobless here in Qatar around 5 months with family!

There is no straight Option to know our Visa Status if
Transferable or Nontransferable

MIMH
MIMH
6 years ago

Well not me, I will not be holding my breath. Those expecting radical changes will be severley disappointed.

AMM
AMM
6 years ago

I work in HR and I met with a high official yesterday who told me that there is a commission working on the changes and they are consulting Abu Dhabi authorities asking for their experience. Most probably the changes will come gradually, not all at once.

Abdulrahman
Abdulrahman
6 years ago
Reply to  AMM

Gradual change is better than fast ones.

MIMH
MIMH
6 years ago

I guess all the Keralites are getting really excited now thinking they can change jobs for an extra 100 QR a month, they too will be disappointed…..

Amber
Amber
6 years ago

I understand the reasoning behind the exit permit system(but loopholes for employers exploiting the exit permit system should be closed). However not allowing people to change jobs is just wrong. What is the problem with changing your job if you don’t owe your old job any time or lost work. I have a friend who wants to change his job because his current job hasn’t given him a raise in 9 years. He has been offered better paying jobs with more benefits but his current job refuses to give him a NOC. Going back to his home country isn’t an option.

Its situations like this that burns me up.

AEC
AEC
6 years ago
Reply to  Amber

Does it really make sense for individual sponsors to be in charge of border control anyway? That is really the role of the State in most countries. If there is a specific problem with a particular individual who is breaking the law and likely to abscond then the State needs to have an effective and expeditious mechanism to deal with that specific problem. At the moment the State has to stop everyone leaving until individual sponsors allow each person to leave. It seems somewhat cumbersome to say the least and at worst means any sponsor who chooses to abuse the system creates additional problems for everyone else – both denizens & citizens.

MIMH
MIMH
6 years ago
Reply to  Amber

Well he could go to another country, say UAE or Saudi. Nothing is stopping him if he finds a job

Myrddin
Myrddin
6 years ago
Reply to  MIMH

I think you miss the point. Moving to another country may address the pay and conditions problem, but there are other potential problems to consider, disrupting kid’s education, packing up and relocating etc. If a solution is presented locally, and denial of an NOC prevents that happening, I can understand the frustration.

Observant One
Observant One
6 years ago
Reply to  Amber

You understand the exit permit system? Do you understand Article 12 and 13 of UN Universal Declaration of Human Rights, of which Qatar is a signatory?

Abdulrahman
Abdulrahman
6 years ago
Reply to  Amber

I find that the exist permit control is a lazy way for dealing with given some expat employees too much power and not enough control in place. What should be done is that there should be controls in place to ensure segregation of duties in every job so that no one employee, be they expat or Qatari, can just steal things and run away.

I can accept the exist permit control being used as control for some sensitive jobs, or if someone has some debt, but applying it across the board makes it possible for some to abuse it in the extreme.

Big Biker
Big Biker
6 years ago

I’m not holding my breath.

CarerOfSyrianPeople
CarerOfSyrianPeople
6 years ago
Reply to  Big Biker

I don’t think.. Qatar will seriously make changes to kafala system. FIFA can consider withdrawing of awarding rights of world cup 2022

KK
KK
6 years ago

No ‘soon’; action please

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