DOHA: Critics of Qatar’s hosting of the 2022 World Cup have been were handed a new weapon by a Minister’s admission that there is no formal timetable for the Gulf state to enact proposed reforms to the controversial kafala sponsorship system.
The to-and-fro debate over the issue illustrates the challenge confronting the progressives within the World Cup organising system as they seek to win over conservative political, commercial and religious strands of Qatari society.
The Supreme Committee responsible for organising the finals has created and is applying its own rights-conscious regulations for immigrant workers on the stadia sites.
However these standards do not apply for workers in the country’s general development infrastructure which must also contribute to supporting the staging of the tournament.
The latest comments by Labour Minister Abdullah bin Saleh Al Khulaifi cut across assurances which FIFA president Sepp Blatter claimed to have been given by the Emir at the weekend about the pace of reform.
According to the Qatar News Agency, the sponsorship law was under the jurisdiction of the Ministry of Interior and was being examined as part of the legislative process. Qatar was committed to change but it was not possible to set a certain date.
Other officials had suggested changes might be implemented by early 2015.
The kafala system in Qatar and other Gulf countries has been the source of the abuse of foreign workers by employers, who control their ability to live and work in Qatar.
Last May, officials from the Ministry of Interior and Ministry of Labor and Social Affairs unveiled draft proposals that would make it easier for foreign workers to leave the country and change jobs.
However, it stopped short of abolishing the system controlling exit permits.