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8 Nov 2015

Human Rights Watch

New Qatari reforms won't protect migrant workers, says Human Rights Watch

"Qatar: New Reforms Won’t Protect Migrant Workers", 08 November 2015

Qatar’s failure to enact meaningful reforms for its kafala (sponsorship) system leaves hundreds of thousands of low-paid migrant workers at serious risk of forced labor and other abuses. Reforms announced on October 27, 2015, still require low-paid migrant workers to get their employer’s permission to change jobs or to leave the country, a system that that prevents workers from leaving abusive employers. The new sponsorship law, law no. 21 of 2015, refers to “recruiters” instead of “sponsors” but it leaves the fundamentally exploitative characteristics of the kafala system in place. The serious mistreatment of migrant workers in Qatar has been the focus of international criticism since it won the right to host the 2022 FIFA World Cup. These reforms to its kafala system, which will enter into force in one year, fall short even of the largely insubstantial pledges Qatar made in May 2014.“The message this law sends is that Qatar doesn’t really care much about migrant workers,” said Joe Stork deputy Middle East director. “Its sponsorship system remains a serious stain on Qatar’s international reputation”...Article 21 of the new law states that workers who want to change employers before the end of their contracts will need the permission of their employer, “the competent authority,” as well as the Interior, and Labor and Social Affairs Ministries. The law does not define who “the competent authority” is. Workers who wish to change employers at the end of their contract will also need the permission of “the competent authority” and the Labor and Social Affairs Ministry. If the length of the contract is not defined, workers must wait five years to leave an employer...