KATHMANDU, Sept 6: Amnesty International, an organization that advocates for ending abuse of human rights, on Wednesday lauded Qatar's new law that partially scraps the 'exit permit' which earlier prevented migrant workers from leaving the country without their employer's permission.
Law No 13 of 2018, issued by the Emir of Qatar on Tuesday, removes the power of employers to ban the vast majority of migrant workers – those covered by the country's Labor Law - from leaving the country. However, employers can still request exit permits for up to 5 % of their workforce, depending on the nature of their work. Other employees such as domestic workers who fall outside the purview of the Labor Law are yet to benefit from the reform.
“Qatar's partial abolition of the exit permit finally grants hundreds of thousands of workers the right to leave Qatar without their employers' permission, and is an important first step toward meeting the authorities' promise to fundamentally reform the exploitative sponsorship system,” said Deputy Director of the Global Issues Program at Amnesty International, Stephen Cockburn.
According to Qatar's Ministry of Development Planning and Statistics, there are more than 1.9 million migrant workers in the country – about 90% of the country's total population – mainly from South and South East Asian countries including Nepal.
Migrant workers in Qatar need a 'non-objection certificate' from their employer to change jobs in Qatar. Many employers refuse to provide such certificates, and workers are forced to stay until their contract finishes, which can be up to five years.
Workers who leave their jobs without their employer's permission can be reported for 'absconding', attracting a criminal charge that could lead to arrest and deportation. This is in contravention to the international labor laws and standards. Cockburn said, “Workers' rights should not be in the hands of their employers.”
The reforms announced on Tuesday are part of a three-year Technical Cooperation Project agreed with the International Labor Organisation (ILO) in October 2017, following labor abuses uncovered by organizations such as Amnesty International. Under the project, Qatar committed to revise its laws in line with international labor standards.