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Posted On: 31 October 2018 11:06 am
Updated On: 12 November 2020 02:19 pm

Qatar signs region’s first refugee asylum law

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His Highness The Amir Sheikh Tamim bin Hamad Al Thani has signed a new law outlining procedures and requisites for people who may want to seek asylum in Qatar. This law is a first for the GCC region and indicates the country’s commitment towards the rights of refugees.

According to the Deputy Middle East Director of Human Rights Watch, Lama Fakih, this law will serve as a big step in a region where rich Gulf states have often closed the doors on refugees.

The new Law No. 11/2018 on Organizing Political Asylum was passed just after Qatar ratified two other laws: one has put an end to exit permits for most expatriates working in Qatar; and the second one allow people who have lived in Qatar for over 20 years to apply for permanent residency. All these laws point to Qatar’s commitment in looking after its people and aligning itself towards international human rights standards.

According to Article 1 of the new Law No. 11/2018, a refugee has been defined as a “political asylee,” which is described as “any person outside his country of nationality or habitual residency if he is not a citizen, who is unable or unwilling to return to this country due to a justified fear of execution or bodily punishment, torture, inhumane or degrading treatment, or persecution, on account of his ethnicity, religion, or affiliation with a specific social group, or due to his political beliefs.”

Under Article 9, refugees can work in Qatar, get unemployment benefits if jobless, acquire a travel document and also seek litigation. They can also gain access to government housing, education and health care.

In Article 15, a refugee should not return to “his country of origin or to another country in which he fears he will be in danger or subject to persecution.”

This new law comes amid the ongoing blockade that was imposed on Qatar on 5 June 2017 by its neighbouring, and once friendly, countries: Saudi Arabia, the United Arab Emirates, Bahrain and Egypt. Though all these countries ordered all Qataris in their countries to leave immediately following the blockade, and also recalled their nationals back to their respective countries, Qatar did not reciprocate in the same way, and has welcomed anyone from these countries who wish to stay. Many Bahraini, Emirati and Saudi nationals chose to stay on in Qatar, despite pressure from their countries, for work or family reasons. (Source)

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