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.


Amnesty slams Iranian execution of two men charged of financial crimes

Updated 14 November 2018
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Amnesty slams Iranian execution of two men charged of financial crimes

LONDON: After two men convicted of financial crimes were executed in Iran, Amnesty International has strongly criticized the Iranian regime.
Vahid Mazloumin and Mohammad Esmail Ghasemi were put to death after a trial Amnesty has called “grossly unfair.”
Amnesty International’s Middle East and North Africa Research and Advocacy Director, Philip Luther, said of the case: “With these abhorrent executions the Iranian authorities have flagrantly violated international law and once again displayed their shameless disregard for the right to life.
“Use of the death penalty is appalling under any circumstances but it is even more horrific given that these men were convicted after a grossly unfair show trial that was broadcast on state television. Under international human rights law, the death penalty is absolutely forbidden for non-lethal crimes, such as financial corruption.
“The shocking manner in which their trial was fast-tracked through Iran’s judicial system without allowing them the chance of a proper appeal is yet another example of the brazen disregard the Iranian authorities have for defendants’ basic due process rights.”
The duo were executed after being charged with “manipulating coin and hard currency markets through illegal and unauthorized deals” as well as smuggling. An unspecified number of other accomplices went to prison.
Iran detained Mazloumin, 58, in July for hoarding two tons of gold coins.
With Iran in the grip of a deepening economic crisis, authorities have carried out mass arrests of individuals whom they accuse of being “financially corrupt” and “saboteurs of the economy.”
According to Amnesty, the pair were convicted and sentenced to flogging, lengthy prison terms and eventually the death penalty after “grossly unfair summary trials.”
In August, Iran’s Supreme Leader approved a request by the Head of Judiciary to set up special courts to deal with crimes involving financial corruption. Since then, these courts have sentenced several people to death.
In a statement, Amnesty said the trials were unfair because defendants were denied access to lawyers of their own choosing, had no right to appeal against sentences of imprisonment during the process and were given only 10 days within which to appeal death sentences.