Qatar lifts controversial exit visa system for most workers

Qatar’s system still requires the country's 1.6 million mainly Asian foreign workers to obtain their employers’ consent before changing jobs. (AFP)
Updated 05 September 2018
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Qatar lifts controversial exit visa system for most workers

DUBAI: Qatar amended its residency laws on Tuesday to allow most foreign workers to leave the country without exit permits from their employers, a provision which labor rights groups have long said should be abolished.
Doha is keen to show it is tackling allegations of worker exploitation as it prepares to host the 2022 soccer World Cup, which it has presented as a showcase of its progress and development.
The new law allows most workers to leave the country without exit permits from their employers, Qatar said in a statement quoting Minister of Administrative Development, Labor and Social Affairs Issa Al-Nuaimi.
Employers will still be allowed to require up to five percent of their workforce to request permission to leave, after submitting their names to the government “with justifications based on the nature of the work,” the statement said.
The ILO hailed the move as a “significant step” for gas-rich Qatar, which committed last year to introducing sweeping labor reforms, including changes to the exit visa system.
“The ILO welcomes the enactment of Law No. 13, which will have a direct and positive impact on the lives of migrant workers in Qatar,” said Houtan Homayounpour, the head of the ILO office in Doha, which was set up in April.
Labor and rights groups have attacked Qatar for its “kafala” sponsorship system, which is common in Gulf states where large portions of the population are foreigners.
Qatar’s system still requires the country’s 1.6 million mainly Asian foreign workers to obtain their employers’ consent before changing jobs, which the groups say leaves workers open to abuse.
The government’s other pledged reforms include introduction of a minimum wage and a grievance procedure for workers.


Lions, other animals to be saved from Gaza zoo: welfare group

Updated 40 min 4 sec ago
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Lions, other animals to be saved from Gaza zoo: welfare group

  • The animals would be taken out of a zoo in the Palestinian enclave and relocated to sanctuaries in Jordan next week
  • Rafah Zoo in southern Gaza confirmed the agreement, saying they weren’t receiving any funds for the animals

GAZA CITY: Forty animals including five lions are to be rescued from squalid conditions in the Gaza Strip, an animal welfare group said Wednesday.
The animals would be taken out of a zoo in the Palestinian enclave and relocated to sanctuaries in Jordan next week, the Four Paws organization said.
Among the other animals to be taken out are a hyena, monkeys, wolves and porcupines, the organization said in a statement.
Rafah Zoo in southern Gaza confirmed the agreement, saying they weren’t receiving any funds for the animals and couldn’t provide proper care for them in the strip.
The zoo hit the headlines last month when the cash-strapped owner revealed he had declawed one of the lions there, so that customers could pay to play with her.
The organization condemned the declawing, with almost 150,000 people signing a petition against the treatment.
The animals would be treated and sedated, before being taken through Israel into Jordan, Four Paws said.
“For far too long, the animals of Rafah Zoo have had to live under unimaginably dreadful conditions,” said Four Paws veterinarian Amir Khalil.
“We are happy to finally put an end to this horror,” he said in the statement.
The animal welfare group has previously evacuated two other zoos in Gaza, where desperate poverty often leaves owners unable to assure adequate conditions.
Israel has imposed a crippling blockade on the Gaza Strip for more than a decade, measures it says are necessary to isolate the enclave’s Islamist rulers Hamas.
Israel and Hamas have fought three wars since 2008.
In 2016, Four Paws helped facilitate the transfer of the sole tiger in the Gaza Strip, eventually relocating it to South Africa.
The organization in 2017 rescued a lion and a bear from a zoo in Mosul in northern Iraq, a former stronghold of the Daesh group.