By Sarah Townsend
Expats can lodge an appeal under new sponsorship law if their employer stops them leaving the country
An appeals committee will be set up in Qatar for expats whose exit permits have been rejected by their employers, the government announced on Monday.
Qatar’s Ministry of Interior (MOI) set up the new committee as part of the introduction of the country’s new sponsorship law, which comes into effect on Tuesday and replaces the old ‘kafala’ system.
The reforms are intended to make it easier for expats to change jobs and leave the country as and when they wish.
Under earlier drafts of the legislation, Qatar was expected to set up an automated exit permit system, but under the final version expats still need their employers’ permission to leave the country.
However, the new grievance panel has been set up to help those finding it difficult to secure such permissions from their employers.
The MoI announced the appeals committee during a press conference in Doha on Monday night.
It outlined details on its Twitter feed, including that the committee would start work from Tuesday at the former Traffic Department office from Sundays to Thursdays.
An expat can approach the committee if their employer is not allowing them to leave the country on holiday or in emergency, the MoI said.
Once a complaint is filed, the committee will contact the employer, which must justify why they denied the exit permit.
The committee must make a decision within three working days of receiving the complaint, the MoI added in a series of tweets.
The committee can back the employer in cases when the expat has committed fraud or is attempting to escape prosecution of a crime.
If the employer is unreachable, the employee will be granted an exit permit anyway. If the appeal is rejected, the expat has 24 hours to appeal the decision.
Initially, grievances are to be submitted manually using a written form, the MoI said. An electronic system is to be introduced at a “later” date.
In a statement to media on Monday announcing the implementation of the new sponsorship law, Qatar’s Government Communications Office said: “Freedom of movement is explicitly guaranteed [in the new law].
“Expats have the right to leave the country after notifying the employer, whether to take leave or for an emergency.
“Expats also have the right to permanently leave the country before or after completing the duration of their contract, after notifying the employer according to the terms of the contract.
“If the employer rejects a leave request, the migrant worker can appeal to the Exit Permit Grievances Committee, which has to respond to all requests within 3 days.
“The applicant will be able to leave the country unless he is wanted in connection to any active criminal proceedings, or has defaulted on any debt in Qatar that remains unsettled.”
Dr Issa bin Saad Al Jafali Al Nuaimi, minister of administrative development, labour & social affairs, said: “The State of Qatar is enormously grateful to the millions of workers who have come to Qatar to build our nation’s infrastructure during this period of rapid change.
“The new law is the latest step towards improving and protecting the rights of every expatriate worker in Qatar. It replaces the Kafala system with a modernised, contract-based system that safeguards worker rights and increases job flexibility.”