Qatar Abolishes Kafala System

Age old ‘Kafala System’ in Qatar has ended now. Labour Minister of Qatar Issa bin Saad al-Jafali al-Nuaimi announced that the “kafala” rules would be abolished from December 13.

Under “kafala”, all foreign workers working in Qatar require a local sponsor, in the form of an individual or company, and need their permission to switch jobs or leave the country.

kafala system
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The system was compared to modern-day slavery and left vulnerable workers with little protection and open to abuse.

The new law is the latest step towards improving and protecting the rights of every expatriate worker in Qatar.

Freedom of movement is guaranteed under the new rules, including giving workers the right to change jobs.

Any workers mistreated will automatically be allowed to change jobs, said officials.

The exit visa formally needed to leave the country under “kafala” will be abolished, although workers will still need their employers’ permission to go home.

What is Kafala System?

The kafala system is a system used to monitor migrant laborers, working primarily in the construction and domestic sectors, in Lebanon, Bahrain, Iraq, Jordan, Kuwait, Oman, Qatar, Saudi Arabia, and the UAE.

The system requires all unskilled laborers to have an in-country sponsor, usually their employer, who is responsible for their visa and legal status.

This practice has been criticised by human rights organizations for creating easy opportunities for the exploitation of workers, as many employers take away passports and abuse their workers with little chance of legal repercussions.

New Rules in Qatar:

According to Qatar Ministry of Administrative Development, Labour & Social Affairs (MADLSA), 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.

Expats will no longer need approval from their existing employer to change jobs if they complete the length of a fixed-term contract. Individuals in open-ended contracts will also be able to change jobs without their existing employer’s permission, provided that they complete a five-year service period.

All prospective migrant workers will be able to see a copy of their job contract, prior to leaving their country of origin, as obtaining a work visa will now require the existence of a job contract approved by the Ministry.

Employers found to have confiscated passports can be fined up to QR25,000 per worker. When enacted, this will be the toughest financial penalty against passport confiscation within the region.