News: Qatar abolishes Kafala system for unskilled international workers

  • Qatar
Published on 2016-12-13 at 13:00 by Veedushi
Unskilled international workers in Qatar will no longer need sponsorship to be allowed to work in the country, as announced on Monday by the Ministry of Administrative Development, Labor and Social Affairs.

Kafala system has finally been abolished by the government of Qatar, and from now on, unskilled international workers will no longer have to be sponsored to be allowed to work in Qatar. These changes take effect as from Tuesday December 13, 2016, as announced by the Ministry of Administrative Development, Labor and Social Affairs.

By replacing the controversial Kafala with a new contract-based system, the government aims at providing more protection of international workers' rights in the country. To date, there are more than 2.1 million migrant workers in Qatar, including Indians, Bangladeshis, Nepalese, and Philippine nationals.

Migrant workers, especially those in the domestic and construction sectors, used to be monitored by the Kafala system. All workers needed to have a sponsor, either a company or an individual, who was in charge of their visa and legal status in the country. In addition, they needed their sponsor's approval when they wanted to switch jobs or leave the country.

From now on, the contract-based system should guarantee the freedom and flexibility of unskilled workers within the local labour market. Also, the exit visa that was required from sponsored residents, who had a work residence permit no longer applies. This visa had to be arranged by sponsors up to seven days before departure. However, foreign workers still have to inform their sponsor, if they intend to leave the country, which reportedly led to a lot of abuse in the past.

International media report that an appeals committee has been set up on Tuesday to help workers who are denied permission to leave. Migrant workers can thus make an appeal within three days. Any sponsor caught confiscating their employees' passports to prevent them from leaving will have to pay a fine of 25,000 rials — that is around USD 6,800.

According to media reports, the Qatar minister of Labour, Issa bin Saad Al-Jafali Al-Nuaimi said that he welcomes constructive criticism, but wishes that outsiders will not draw any conclusions before the law becomes steady. The ministry is also reinforcing its labour inspectorate for better monitoring, and to ensure compliance with the law.

Currently, the Kafala also exists in other Gulf countries, such as Lebanon, Iraq, Jordan, Kuwait, and Oman. Bahrein was the first country to tweak this system in 2009, followed by Saudi Arabia.