The tiny nation of Qatar is already in the news headlines after getting nominated to host the 2022 FIFA World Cup. Since then, the country made various labour reforms and changes; one of the most significant is the abolition of the Kafala System. This Thursday, the U.N. labour organisation welcomed this latest labour reform by declaring it as a milestone change.
With the ending of the Kafala system, it means a migrant worker doesn't need an exit permit from their respective sponsor, Kafil or employer to leave the country. With the abolition of exit permit requirements, it is easy for a migrant worker to move in and out of the country. It is also a positive step to protect the rights of all migrant workers working in the country.
Qatar amended Labour Law abolished the exit permit requirement for private-sector workers in 2018. This latest legislative amendment on the labour law further expanded these rights to the public-sector workers. Also, those employed in the oil and gas, agricultural sectors and at sea don’t need an exit permit to travel outside the country.
Government officials with regards to this new decission mentioned, “another important step taken by the Government of Qatar to create a modern labour system that strengthens Qatar's employment laws and protects the rights of all expatriate workers.”
However, this law is applicable for “nearly all migrant workers”, not for “every migrant worker.” It means, a limited percentage of reservation still exists, keeping the Kafala system intact in place. The Human Rights Watch stated these latest Labour Reforms in Qatar as disappointing to some extent because of this limited reservations.
A certain percentage of migrant workers holding responsible positions in an organisation and those employed with the armed forces fall under the restricted category. These workers require an exit permit to leave the country. However, the employer must submit their names to the ministry and which should be within 5% of the organisation’s total employed workforce. Furthermore, there is a 72 hours notification window for domestic workers to inform their employer before exiting the country.
The U.N. labour body’s head, Houtan Homayounpour said, “The ILO warmly welcomes these changes, which will benefit many migrant workers in Qatar. The removal of exit permits is an important milestone in the government’s labour reform agenda.”