First Published: 2014-05-14

Qatar courts West with promise to abolish sponsorship system
Gulf country will replace sponsorship system with another based on employment contracts as part of a package of labour reforms.
Middle East Online

International criticism embarrasses Qataris

DOHA - Qatar, which will host the 2022 football World Cup, said Wednesday it will abolish its controversial sponsorship system for foreign workers as international criticism mounts over their treatment.

It "will be replaced with a system based on employment contracts," as part of a package of labour reforms, said a statement released at a press conference in Doha.

Sponsorship systems for foreign workers exist in most Gulf countries, which employ millions of foreigners, especially from Asia. The system has been strongly criticised by human rights groups and likened to modern-day slavery.

The reforms will also end the longstanding requirement that foreign workers obtain their employer's consent before leaving the country.

"The current exit permit system, which requires the employers' consent for an employee to leave the country, will now be replaced with an automated system through the ministry of interior," the statement said.

The new system will automatically grant an exit permit to an employee "after a 72-hour grace period prior to departure," the statement said.

The government will also raise the fine for employers who confiscate the passports of foreign workers to 50,000 rials ($13,580) from the current 10,000 rials, in a bid to stamp out the illegal but still common practice.

Foreign workers will also be able to change job at the end of their contract, without the need for the certificate they currently require that their previous employer has no objection.

If the contract is an open-ended one, a foreign worker will be able to change jobs after five years.

Qatar's treatment of its massive foreign workforce has been under the international spotlight as it launches a massive construction programme for the world football showcase in 2022.

Amnesty International charged that the tens of thousands of migrant workers building the multi-billion-dollar World Cup infrastructure were being treated like "animals", with hundreds dying on the construction sites, and launched a campaign for wholesale reforms.

Qatar has rejected claims that construction workers are being mistreated but has announced a series of measures to improve workplace safety and workers' conditions.

The 2022 World Cup has been plagued by controversy ever since it was awarded to the tiny Gulf state.

The president of world football governing body FIFA, Sepp Blatter, has called for the tournament to be played during the northern hemisphere's winter rather than in the searing heat of a Gulf summer.

But he has met fierce resistance from the big European leagues.

A decision will not be taken until 2015.

 

Qatar says Gulf crisis hindering fight against IS

Khamenei vows to 'shred' nuclear deal if US pulls out

Baghdad says mission accomplished in Kurd operation

Bahrain accuses Iran of harbouring 160 'terrorists'

Jobless Tunisians seek new migration routes to Europe

EU says Israeli settlements illegal under international law

Kurdish independence goes from dream to dust

Female commander more than just poster girl for Raqa victory

Saudi airline flies to Baghdad for first time in 27 years

Wanted Dead: France's approach to IS jihadists

Saudi Arabia to monitor interpretations of prophet's sayings

Italy busts Libyan diesel smugglers

Fate of IS fighters in Raqa uncertain

Turkish Red Crescent concerned by Idlib humanitarian ‘drama’

US firm to build solar plants in Gaza

Ghost city Raqa scanned for survivors, bombs

Qatar emir calls for talks on visit to Indonesia

Iraq calls on BP to help develop Kirkuk oil

Israeli forces raid Palestinian media offices linked to Hamas

French parliament is set to pass new anti-terror law

Israel says no to Palestine talks until Hamas disarms

IS territory down to almost 10% of 2014 ‘caliphate’

Over 3000 civilians flee Raqa under deal with jihadists

Ideology and objectives clash at Deir Ezzor

Erdogan gets Polish backing on Turkey's EU bid

Iranian guards commander killed in Syria

Fitch Ratings says threat to Qatar liquidity fading

Iran warns EU against new nuclear deal conditions

Turkey activists face trial next week under terror charges

Netanyahu presses Russian defence minister on Iran

US-backed forces announce Raqa recapture

Hollande slams Trump's hardline stance on Iran nuclear deal

Iraq takes control of two key Kirkuk oil fields

US-backed forces retake Raqa state hospital

Divided Iraq tests limited US influence

New UN envoy in Rabat to restart talks on WSahara

Iraqi forces seize Kirkuk governor's office

Iraqi forces seize airport, oil field from Kurds

Saudi Arabia sets conditions to role in Syria reconstruction

In tougher approach, US offers multimillion-dollar reward for Hezbollah operatives

EU ministers join forces in support of Iran deal

Batteries, tape to thank for defeating jihadists in Raqa

Palestinian Authority top official visits Gaza

Israel strikes Syrian anti-aircraft battery in response to shots

Qatar starts to feel pinch from sanctions