Qatar ‘tweaks’ kafala sys­tem for ex­pats

Kuwait Times - - FRONT PAGE -

DUBAI: Qatar an­nounced yes­ter­day it is in­tro­duc­ing long-ex­pected re­forms to poli­cies gov­ern­ing its vast for­eign-la­bor force, though the changes still re­quire work­ers to seek clear­ance from their bosses be­fore leav­ing the coun­try. The new poli­cies fol­low years of in­tense crit­i­cism from la­bor and hu­man rights ac­tivists over work­ing con­di­tions in Qatar. The nat­u­ral gas-rich coun­try is in the midst of a tor­rid build­ing boom tied to its host­ing of the 2022 World Cup.

Crit­ics say Qatar’s long-stand­ing “kafala” spon­sor­ship sys­tem bind­ing work­ers to their em­ployer leaves mi­grants open to abuse, and in some cases can amount to forced la­bor. Qatar touted the re­forms as abol­ish­ing the kafala sys­tem al­to­gether. Rights groups say the changes fall far short of what is needed to pro­tect the armies of mostly Asian low-wage work­ers trans­form­ing the tiny coun­try.

A state­ment re­leased by the Min­istry of Ad­min­is­tra­tive De­vel­op­ment, La­bor and So­cial Af­fairs said the changes are in­tended to en­sure “greater flex­i­bil­ity, free­dom and pro­tec­tion” to the more than 2.1 mil­lion work­ers in Qatar. The min­is­ter re­spon­si­ble for la­bor, Issa bin Saad Al-Jafali Al-Nuaimi, said Qatar wel­comes con­struc­tive crit­i­cism and he urged out­siders to give the law time to take root be­fore draw­ing any con­clu­sions. He said the min­istry is boost­ing its mon­i­tor­ing ef­forts and hir­ing more la­bor in­spec­tors to en­force com­pli­ance. “We are do­ing this be­cause we be­lieve it is the right thing to do and be­cause it pro­vides tan­gi­ble new ben­e­fits to ex­pa­tri­ate work­ers,” Nuaimi said.

— AFP

DOHA: Mi­grant work­ers are seen walk­ing next to a con­struc­tion site in the Qatari cap­i­tal on Dec 6, 2016. (In­set) Qatari La­bor Min­is­ter Issa bin Saad Al-Nuaimi holds a press con­fer­ence on re­form­ing Qatar’s la­bor laws and prac­tices yes­ter­day.

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