5th September 2018

Migrant workers no longer need employer’s ‘exit permit’ to leave Qatar

The International Labour Organisation (ILO) has welcomed a new law that will allow the majority of migrant workers constructing infrastructure for the Qatar 2022 FIFA World Cup to leave the country without obtaining an ‘exit permit’ from their employer. Law No. 13 of 2018, adopted on 4 September 2018, amends provisions of Law No. 21 of 2015 and Law No. 1 of 2017 that required migrant workers to obtain an ‘exit permit’. The new Law allows migrant workers covered by Qatar’s Labour Code to leave the country without a permit. A Ministerial Decree will follow outlining rules and procedures allowing the exit of workers who fall outside the Labour Code.

Law No. 13 of 2018 also specifies that employers may submit for approval to the Ministry of Administrative Development, Labour and Social Affairs the names of workers for whom a ‘no objection certificate’ would still be required, reports The Peninsula. Justification for such an ‘exit permit’ would be needed based on the nature of the work, and the number of workers that would still require a permit must not exceed 5% of a company’s workforce. 

“The ILO welcomes the enactment of Law No. 13, which will have a direct and positive impact on the lives of migrant workers in Qatar”, said Houtan Homayounpour, the Head of the ILO Project Office for the State of Qatar, opened in April 2018, in a statement. “This first step towards full suppression of exit permits is a clear sign of commitment by the Government of Qatar to labour reforms and a key milestone in the process. The ILO will continue to work closely with the government of Qatar on these reforms.”

Conditions inside a kitchen of Qatar 2022 migrant workers…

Law No. 21 of 2015 was also an attempt at reforming the ‘kafala’ system, which previously prevented migrant workers from leaving the country or their jobs – in effect, it allowed employers to ‘own’ their workers. The changes it introduced were dismissed as “sham reforms” by the International Trade Union Confederation (ITUC).

Law No. 21 of 2015 required employer or Ministry approval for a migrant worker to be able to leave the country, except in ‘emergency cases’ where a decision will be taken in three working days. It mandated that workers could only change contracts at the end of their employment contract if they have permission from their employer, the Ministry of the Interior and the Ministry of Labour and Social Affairs. 

Even if a contract was open-ended, a worker was only able to move jobs after five years, and still required the approval of his employer and both Ministries. Before the end of a contract, the law required employer approval and the approval of both Ministries before a worker can take another job. Law No. 1 of 2017 allowed workers to exit the country before the end of their contract, however provided an appeal process for employers.

The 2022 FIFA World Cup will be held in eight stadiums across Qatar. The 40,000 Khalifa International Stadium opened last year, and construction at the other seven sites is ongoing, as this August update from Qatar’s Supreme Committee for Delivery & Legacy outlines.

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