Expats in Qatar have welcomed government plans to scrap the country’s “sponsorship” system for overseas workers.
Qatar’s thousands of foreign workers are closely bound to their employers through a system known as ‘kafala’.
The system, which is widespread throughout the Gulf, requires all foreigners to be sponsored by a local employer in order to work and reside in the country.
Because sponsored expatriates can find it extremely hard to change jobs, leave the country or even rent a home without the permission of their sponsors, the arrangement has long been criticized by human rights groups as a tool for exploitation and abuse.
So far only one country in the Gulf Co-operation Council, Bahrain, has scrapped the system, known as kafala, but reports last week suggested that Qatar might soon follow.
“The sponsorship system will be replaced with a contract signed by the two parties [workers and employers],” said Hussain al-Mulla, the labor ministry undersecretary, according to Gulf News. “The contract will stipulate the rights and duties of each party and will impose specific matters that the foreigner has to respect.”
There were also plans, he said, to set up a labor union to protect the rights of both Qatari and foreign workers.