Qatar, host of the 2022 football World Cup, yesterday pledged to introduce new legislation to replace the “kafala” sponsorship system and improve conditions for migrant workers by early 2015.
The current law would make way for legislation that was “currently under review”, the AFP news agency quoted the Labour and Social Affairs Ministry as saying in a statement.
“We expect to make announcements about new legislation by early next year,” it said.
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.
Qatar said in 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 that grants them permission 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.
Those on open-ended contracts would be entitled to change jobs after five years.
And employers who confiscate the passports of their workers would face tougher penalties.
“We intend to effect meaningful and lasting change for the benefit of all those who live and work in Qatar,” the ministry said yesterday.
It said that Qatar was working with governments in home countries of migrant workers to clamp down on “unethical or illegal behaviour” of recruitment agencies.
On Thursday, football’s world governing body FIFA cleared Qatar of corruption and ruled out a re-vote to decide the host of the competition.
Qatar said it never doubted the “clean” record by which it won the bid to host the tournament. “We welcome the scrutiny of international organisations,” the Labour Ministry said yesterday.
“We continue to welcome constructive criticism and feedback, as well as positive acknowledgement of the changes we have made.”
The ministry encouraged international organisations to share information on specific issues or violations to investigate and “swiftly remedy them”.
The Labour Ministry said Qatar’s fast-growing economy was providing jobs for more than 1.6mn foreigners, insisting many “earn more and live in better conditions than in their home countries”.
“We believe that the people helping us build our country deserve to be fairly paid, humanely treated and protected against exploitation. That is why we are reforming our labour laws and practices,” it added.
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