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Qatar abolishes ‘kafala’ labor system

Qatari Labour Minister Issa bin Saad al-Jafali al-Nuaimi (R) and assistant director general of the Department of Border, Passport and Expatriates Affairs at the Labour ministry, Brigadier Mohammed Ahmed al-Atiq give a joint press conference to announce the end to Qatar's internationally condemned "kafala" sponsorship law for migrant workers, on Monday in Doha. (AFP)
DOHA: Qatar on Monday formally announced the end of its controversial “kafala” system, arguably the biggest ever labor reform undertaken by the 2022 football World Cup host nation. In a long-expected announcement, Labor Minister Issa bin Saad Al-Jafali Al-Nuaimi said the “kafala” rules would be abolished effective Dec. 13.
He said a contract-based system to govern the country’s 2.1 million foreign workers would take its place.
Under “kafala,” all foreign workers employed in Qatar require a local sponsor, in the form of an individual or company, and need their permission to switch jobs or leave the country.
“The new law is the latest step toward improving and protecting the rights of every expatriate worker in Qatar,” Nuaimi said.
“It replaces the kafala system with a modernized, contract-based system that safeguards workers’ rights and increases job flexibility.”
Freedom of movement is guaranteed under the new rules, said Qatari officials, including giving workers the right to change jobs.
Any workers mistreated will automatically be allowed to change jobs, said officials.
The exit visa formally needed to leave the country under “kafala” will be abolished, although workers will still need their employers’ permission to leave.
An appeals committee has been established for expats who are denied permission to leave, and that committee will begin work on Tuesday.
Employers who confiscate workers’ passports could be fined QR25,000 ($6,800, 6,400 euros), up from QR10,000 under “kafala.”
The new law should also offer greater contract protection, officials said.

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