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.

 

Erdogan urges world to recognise Jerusalem as Palestinian capital

Gulf pours funds into West Africa anti-jihadist force

US skeptical about Putin's declaration of military victory in Syria

US-led air strikes kill 23 civilians in Syria

Saudi Arabia lifts decades-long ban on cinemas

Lebanon approves bid for oil, gas exploration

US to present 'irrefutable evidence' of Iran violations

Istanbul 'to remove Gulen links' from street names

Iraq hangs 38 jihadists

Pence to visit Middle East despite controversy

Hamas chief calls for continued Jerusalem protests

EU to repatriate 15,000 migrants from Libya in two months

Syria Kurds fear US ally will desert them after IS defeat

Israeli drugmaker Teva to cut 14,000 jobs over two years

Turkey rescues 51 migrants stranded on rocks

Saudi, UAE hold talks with Yemen Islamists

18 killed after bomber strikes Mogadishu police academy

Israeli air strikes target Hamas military facilities

Israel union calls nationwide strike over pharmaceutical giant job cuts

UN envoy urges Putin to press Assad for elections

Yemen's Huthi rebels release pro-Saleh media staff

Israel intelligence minister invites Saudi prince to visit

Saudi-led strikes kill 30 in rebel-run Yemen prison

Saudi king says Palestinians have 'right' to Jerusalem

Saudi King says determined to confront corruption

South Sudan needs $1.7 billion humanitarian aid in 2018

UAE oil giant floats 10 percent of retail arm to strong interest

Growing concern about rise of far-right in Austria

Saudi, UAE seeks to help West Africa fight terrorism

Somali journalist dies after Mogadishu bombing

Israeli sentenced to four years for arson attack on church

Erdogan risks sabotaging fragile relations with Israel

6.2-magnitude earthquake strikes Iran

Two Gazans killed by Israeli ‘strike’, Israel denies claim

French FM accuses Iran of carving out ‘axis’ of influence

Over 170 dead after South Sudan rival cattle herders clash

Russia begins partial withdrawal from Syria

Russia weary of returning IS jihadists before World Cup, election

EU accused of complicity in Libya migrant rights violations

Pentagon skeptical about Russia's Syria pullout claims

EU says Syria war ‘ongoing’ despite Russia pullout

Istanbul nightclub gunman refuses to testify

Integrating Syrians in Turkey carries implications

US opinion views Muslims and Arabs more favourably but political affiliation makes a difference

Iranian conservative protesters say Trump hastening end of Israel