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Sat 21 Mar 2015 10:21 AM

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No launch date yet for Qatar labour reforms - minister

Qatar says committed to replacing controversial kafala sponsorship system but still no specific timetable in place

No launch date yet for Qatar labour reforms - minister
(AFP/Getty Images - for illustrative purposes only)

Qatar, host of the 2022 football World Cup, has said it is committed to introducing new legislation to replace the controversial kafala sponsorship system and improve conditions for migrant workers despite being unable to say when it will be launched.

Labour Minister Abdullah bin Saleh Al Khulaifi, who promised that reforms would be implemented “as quickly as possible” last July, has reportedly said there is still no timetable to pass the new legislation.

According to the Qatar News Agency, the minister said the sponsorship law is under the jurisdiction of the Ministry of Interior and is being examined as part of the legislative process.

"With regards to the time frame of issuing the law, the minister said it is not possible to give a certain date. However, he added that Qatar is committed to introducing legal changes," QNA said.

It had been hoped that the new legislation would be implemented by early 2015.

Qatar's treatment of its massive foreign workforce has come under the international spotlight as it steps up construction of facilities for the world football showcase in 2022.

Human rights groups and FIFPro, the global union representing footballers, have urged Qatar to abolish the kafala system, which enables employers to prevent their foreign workers from leaving the country or changing jobs and has been likened to modern-day slavery.

The gas-rich country said last May that it would replace the sponsorship system with one based on employment contracts.

Under the new legislation, the exit permit that foreign workers need to leave the country is to be replaced by a system under which permission is granted automatically after a three-day grace period.

Foreign workers would also be able to change jobs at the end of their contracts, without the need for the certificate they currently require from their previous employers showing they have no objections.

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