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14 Dec 2016

Roshan Sedhai, The Kathmandu Post

Qatar labour reform: Ending kafala barely scratches the surface

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Qatar hired 129,038 workers from Nepal in the fiscal year 2015-16, becoming the second largest recipient of Nepali migrants after Saudi Arabia. Nicholas McGeehan, Qatar researcher for Human Rights Watch, said that it would be apt to describe the new laws as “old wine in new bottle. Qatar has just given the dreadful “kafala” system a new name in the hope that people will be too stupid to notice. Nepal and other countries that send young men and women to Qatar should be making their objections loud and clear,” McGeehan told the Post in an email interview.

He said that Qatar’s “sham reforms” are meant to shrug off pressure that has been mounting on the country for its mistreatment of migrant workers. Qatar has drawn widespread criticism for its mistreatment of workers since it won the right to host the 2022 football World Cup. “What right does Qatar have to entrap young Nepali men and women in exploitative jobs and keep them from their families for up to five years? When will Nepal stand up for the fundamental rights of it people instead of just counting the money flowing back in remittances?” questioned McGeehan.

Nepali officials said that they would comment after they go through the new laws. Govinda Mani Bhurtel, spokesperson for the Ministry of Labour and Employment, said that Nepali side will raise concerns in the bilateral forum if the laws still fall short of safeguarding rights of the workers.  “I came to know about the new legislation through news reports. It is said that the new laws would make it easier for the workers to obtain exit visa and apply for work elsewhere. We will go through the legislation and make our views public,” said Bhurtel.