Qatar to end controversial migrant worker restrictions

Doha (AFP) –


Qatar announced plans Wednesday to scrap controversial rules that require some workers to obtain permits to leave the country, and block certain employees from changing companies without employers' permission.

Qatar has introduced a series of reforms to its "kafala" sponsorship system since its selection to host the 2022 World Cup, which set in motion a huge construction programme employing foreign workers.

The restrictive system required foreign workers to obtain permission from their employers to leave the country, a system that critics said fuelled abuses.

Last year, the exit visa was eliminated for the majority of workers, but the authorities are now extending that to the remainder.

"Cabinet has adopted new legislation related to a new law for minimum wage and also a new regulation to facilitate labour transfer to a new employer... and a draft law to abolish exit permits," Labour Minister Yousuf Mohamed al-Othman Fakhroo said at an event in Doha.

Othman did not state what the minimum wage will be, but the government had set it provisionally at 750 riyals ($206) per month.

Some two million foreign workers work in Qatar, many employed directly or indirectly on vast World Cup infrastructure projects.

In February, the gas-rich Gulf state said it was committed to labour reforms, following an Amnesty International report that the 2022 World Cup host was failing to stop widespread abuse of workers.

Doha said it was on course to deliver "lasting" change after the human rights group said it was "running out of time" to implement the reforms before the World Cup.