The emirate of Qatar started more than two years before Football World Cup In their own country, the exit regulations for migrant workers were further relaxed. The UN’s International Labor Organization (ILO) described the decision as an “important milestone” in the Qatar government’s labor market reform. With the change in law that came into force on Thursday, almost all migrant workers in Qatar are now able to leave the country without their employer’s permission. The Kafala system had previously prevented this in many cases.
Qatar had been repeatedly criticized internationally due to the conditions for many migrant workers. There have been repeated reports of exploitation of foreign workers and other human rights violations in the country.
The government of the Emirate had already relaxed the exit regulations for foreign workers in some economic sectors in October 2018. Since then, most workers in the private sector no longer need their employers’ exit permits. The Ministry of the Interior announced that domestic workers and workers in other areas, such as the oil and gas sector or agriculture, also benefited from the new law change.
The Qatari leadership described the decree as an important step for a modern system with strengthened workers’ rights and protected rights for all foreign workers. However, companies could continue to determine for five percent of their workforce that they still need to apply for an exit permit – for example, if they are important for the operational process. Workers with a Qatari passport should notify their employers 72 hours before departure, it said.
Amnesty International had recently criticized the fact that the working conditions of guest workers remained catastrophic. The emirate remained “a playground for unscrupulous employers” despite the 2018 reform commitments, according to a report by the human rights organization in September last year. According to Amnesty International, around two million migrant workers live in Qatar. They come from poor countries like Bangladesh or Nepal.