12/13/2016, 10.23
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Qatar ends labor sponsorship system, exploitation remains

The current system, called "kafala" forced immigrants to seek permission of the employer to accept a new job or leave the country. For the authorities, a new law will ensure "the rights of workers." Criticism from human rights activists and NGOs: the exploitation framework for foreigners remains unchanged. No improvement to protections for domestic workers.


Doha (AsiaNews / Agencies) - Qatar is ready to cancel the "sponsorship" system that regulates employment among migrant workers and that forced foreigners to ask "permission" to "change jobs or leave the country. " According to authorities, a new law will replace the current "kafala" system ensuring greater "flexibility" and "protection" for immigrants.

However activists human rights and labor experts say the change is just a facade. In fact, the proposed amendments are "unchanged" [in essence] to the Labour Act, which they define as a "modern form of slavery ".

In recent years, Qatar has attracted hundreds of thousands of workers from abroad for the many ongoing initiatives in the country; construction related in particular to the World Cup to be played in the Arab country in 2022.

Already in the recent past there have been allegations of labor exploitation, slavery and deaths among foreign workers employed in world cup sites. Millions of modern day slaves exploited to death for the construction of stadiums, hotels, roads and other infrastructure necessary to host the world’s largest football competition.

Trade unionists, labor lawyers and activists say that behind many deaths there are "appalling" working conditions.

The Qatari authorities argue that the new law on labor enters into force today and "ensures respect for the rights of workers", from the country of origin to the country of immigration. Amnesty International says these measures do not provide a "significant change." There may be an obligation to protect, the activists add, but they "leave the general system intact ".

Among the critical points also present in the new law the fact that migrants must always ask the employer’s permission to return home. Again, to change jobs in the context of a five-year contract they will still need their employer’s permission.

Finally, employers will be able to legally retain the passports of workers, which was previously illegal. An action that lends itself to perpetuate the state of exploitation. Added to this is the fact that the legislation does not change the situation of thousands of domestic workers who are excluded from basic protections in the Qatari labor legislation.

In March 2017, the International Labour Organization (ILO) will decide whether the Arab nation will have done enough to prevent forced labor.

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