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Qatar abolishes the 'kafala' system

14 Dec 2016 | By Supriya

Qatar formally announced the end of its dreaded and controversial labour system - "kafala" - with immediate effect from December 13.

A new contract-based labour system will be introduced to replace the 'kafala' system that will govern working conditions of 2.1 million foreign workers residing in Qatar.

Qatar's labour minister said the new system would increase job flexibility and safeguard rights of migrant workers.

In context: Qatar overhauls labour system

What is it?Kafala system in Qatar

The "kafala" system in Qatar is a mandatory sponsorship system.

Under this system every migrant or expatriate worker must have a designated individual or company, as a local sponsor; this sponsor's permission was required if the worker needed to switch jobs or leave the country.

Kafala has been equated with 'modern-day slavery' because of how vulnerable it made workers to face abuse from employers.

HowAbysmal work conditions

Qatar has brought in hundreds and thousands of expat workers for the 2022 World Cup.

Some reports suggest that 1200 migrants died last year as a result of appalling work conditions: interviews with workers revealed that most work all day in extreme heat, live in squalid dormitories and are often mistreated.

Many also complain that sometimes they are not paid for several months.

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Amnesty accuses; Qatar promises change

What transpiredAmnesty accuses; Qatar promises change

Earlier this year, rights organization, Amnesty accused Qatar of deploying 'forced labour' to build the World Cup stadium. Amnesty said workers lived in appalling accommodation and their passports were confiscated.

It also accused FIFA of failing to halt tournament which would be "built on human rights abuses".

Qatar government said it was "concerned" by allegations and reiterated its commitment to systemic reform of labour-laws.

14 Dec 2016Qatar abolishes the 'kafala' system

Key changesQatar's new contract labour system

Qatari officials say that freedom of movement would be guaranteed under new labour rules that will allow workers to change jobs.

An exit visa that was previously required to leave the country under 'kafala' will be done away with, however workers will still need their employers' permission.

Employers who confiscate workers' passports could face heavy fines of upto 25,000 Qatari Riyals (approx $6,800).

Amnesty not impressed

Amnesty International believes Qatar's labour reforms would barely "scratch the surface" and although 'sponsorship' was technically abolished, the same system in principle was intact; it further said workers would still be at "at the mercy of exploitative bosses."