New Qatari residency laws to replace kafala sponsorship system by end of 2016

Author: Anushay Qaiser | Date: 20 Apr 2016

Reform gives workers the right to leave country without permission of employer, without facing two-year ban

A new residency law in Qatar will replace the sponsorship system of ‘kafala’ by the end of 2016, it has been announced.
 
The new law will state that a worker can exit and re-enter the country within two to three days – instead of the previous restriction of two years if they did not have the permission of their employer to leave.
 
It will address the balance of power in the employee/employer relationship in Qatar at a time when the kafala system has come in for criticism from human rights charities such as Amnesty International. Employers have been able to deny their staff exit permits, preventing them from leaving the country legally and therefore risking detention or deportation, which could jeopardise their re-entry.
 
Conditions for construction workers building the stadiums Qatar needs to host the World Cup in 2022 have come in for particular criticism from NGOs. A recently published report called The Ugly Side of the Beautiful Game found that among the most frequently reported problems are: “Deceptive recruitment practices; employers compelling workers to live in squalid conditions; employers confiscating workers’ passports and denying them the exit visa they need to leave Qatar; late or non-payment of wages; and employers not giving workers proper identity documents, which leaves them exposed to arrest. In extreme, but not exceptional, cases migrants are subjected to forced labour.”
 
Expatriate workers will still need to sign contracts with their new employer to enter Qatar but no longer need an exit permit from their sponsor to leave.
 
While this change in the law is intended to benefit workers, Qatari organisations may also find recruitment easier as a result, experts said. Employers will benefit from having access to a much larger talent pool within the country, instead of having to search internationally, which can be costly and time consuming.
 
The news has been welcome by foreign workers in Qatar, including Taimur Asad who works in sales and marketing at petrochemical distributers Muntajat. “This will give me the opportunity to look for better benefits and to plan my future accordingly,” he said. “It gives me motivation to work harder, improve myself and be paid what I am worth in Qatar’s job market.”