Qatar plans to scrap worker sponsorship system

Qatar is considering ending the oft-criticised sponsorship system, under which employers sponsor foreign workers and have a great deal of control over them, the prime minister said.

By (AFP)

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Published: Fri 12 Nov 2010, 8:44 AM

Last updated: Mon 6 Apr 2015, 8:11 AM

“Changes have been made to the sponsorship system in Qatar,” and the council of ministers is “seriously studying” abolishing the system, Shaikh Hamad bin Jassim bin Jabr Al Thani told reporters. “We are studying the issue very carefully to preserve the rights of citizens and foreign workers,” he added.

Sponsorship systems for foreign workers exist in most Gulf countries, which employ millions of foreigners.

The sponsorship system has been strongly criticised by rights groups. In some cases, employers hold workers’ passports and can deny them permission to change jobs.

Bahrain abolished the system in 2009, and Kuwait reportedly plans to do so by February. Kuwait newspaper Al Rai quoted Minister of Social Affairs and Labour Mohammed Al Afasi as saying recently that the system will be scrapped when a public authority for the recruitment of foreign workers is established in February.

The UAE has said it will continue the system of sponsorship. Minister of Labour Saqr Ghobash Saeed Ghobash recently supported the legality of the sponsorship system but pointed out that certain practices attached to the system might not be correct. On Thursday, Shaikh Hamad said that Qatar was not yet ready to hold its first partial parliamentary elections, which have been promised for several years.

“The legislative elections will be held one day... We have fallen behind in completing various laws, of which three quarters have been adopted,” he said.

The principle of a partly elected parliament was enshrined in the Gulf state’s constitution which came into force in 2005.

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