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Kafala reforms in Qatar still expected to take effect in December

With reporting from Riham Sheble

Changes to Qatar’s kafala sponsorship law will come into effect by year-end as planned, a senior official from the Ministry of Interior has confirmed.

Several local media outlets said last month that the reforms were being accelerated and would take effect in October. However, a government officials told Doha News at the time that this was incorrect.

This week, the Peninsula quoted Capt. Abdullah Khalifa Al Muhannadi of the General Directorate of Border Passport and Expatriate Affairs as reiterating plans to implement the new law in mid-December.

The changes

The new rules were approved by the Emir in October, and should make it easier for some expats to leave the country or change jobs.

One of the key changes in the new law is that expats will apply to the government – rather than their sponsor – for an exit permit.

Sponsors will have an opportunity to object to an individual leaving the country, but applicants will be able to appeal a decision to refuse an exit permit.

Similarly, expats who finish fixed contracts will now need the permission of the government – rather than consent from their sponsor, as is the case now – to take up another job.

The changes have drawn a mixed reaction. In a report earlier this year, the International Labour Organization said:

“(The new sponsorship law) still places restrictions on the possibility of workers to leave the country or to change employers and would prevent workers who might be victims of abusive practices from freeing themselves from these situations.”

Qatar officials, however, argue that the changes will help protect the rights of foreign workers here.

For several years, the country has used its plans for reforms to deflect criticism of its human rights record in international forums.

Speaking last week at the Chatham House policy institute in London, a 2022 World Cup organizer said the new law was of “most importance.”

Hassan Al-Thawadi – the secretary-general of Qatar’s Supreme Committee for Delivery and Legacy – reportedly said it would abolish the kafala system by “replacing it with a contractual agreement between employer and employee.

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