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.

 

Iraqi Kurds may postpone referendum in return for concessions

Assad says no Syria ties for countries backing rebels

Rouhani says top priority is protecting nuclear deal from US

Iraqi-Arab Gulf rapprochement makes headway

In Egypt, Syrian refugees recreate Syria

In African tour, Sisi seeks to rebuild ties, address security and water concerns

Syria’s transition scenarios for future rounds of talks

Dubai real estate market sets the pace for renewed growth in the GCC

German-Turkish intellectual held at Ankara’s request

Jordan’s municipal elections marred by deaths, riots

Russia doubts IS claim of stabbing attack in northern city

Turkey slams 'arrogant' German reaction to Erdogan poll call

Police confirm Finland 'terror attack'

Spain hunts suspects as IS claims attack

Aid project helps Syria refugees feel at home in Jordan

Lebanese army launches anti-IS offensive on Syria border

UN demands access to Yemen ports

Low-cost attacks a new reality for Europeans

Forces of Libya's Haftar say commander wanted by ICC in detention

Yemen rebels urged to free political commentator

Iranian footballer breaks silence over ban for playing Israelis

Erdogan meddles in German politics

IS fighters almost encircled in Syrian desert

For Israel, White House ties trump neo-Nazis and antisemitism

Israel freezes implementation of settlement law

Saudi Arabia installing cranes at Yemen ports

13 dead, 100 injured in two Spanish seaside city attacks

Iran reform leader ends hunger strike

Van ploughs through pedestrians in Barcelona terror attack

13 killed in Barcelona van attack

Iraq acknowledges abuses in Mosul campaign

Netanyahu under fire for response to US neo-Nazism

Israel to free high-profile suspects in money laundering probe

Spanish police shut down jet-ski migrant smugglers

Syrian actress, activist Fadwa Suleiman dies in Paris

Israeli court extends detention for Islamic cleric over ‘incitement’

UAE to provide $15 million a month to Gaza

Sudan's Bashir 'satisfied' with Nile dam project

US-backed rebels say American presence in Syria to last ‘decades’

Tunisian clerics oppose equal inheritance rights for women

Israel strikes almost 100 Hezbollah arms convoys in 5 years

UN hopes for eighth round of Syria talks before year’s end

LONG READ: How Syria continues to evade chemical weapons justice

Civilians killed in US-led raids on Raqa

Qatari pilgrims begin flooding into Saudi by land