DOHA: Qatar has announced new legislation which means migrant workers covered by the Labour Code will not have to seek their employers’ permission to leave the country.

Law No. 13 of 2018, amends provisions of Law No. 21 of 2015 and Law No. 1 of 2017, which regulate the entry and exit of expatriates.

A statement from the International Labour Organisation  which has been in the forefront of pressure enabled by the hosting of the 2022 World Cup, said:

“Today marks a huge step for workers’ rights and the end of the kafala system for migrant workers in Qatar.

An estimated 1.5 million workers will now have the freedom to leave Qatar without their employer’s permission and eliminates a central part of the kafala system of modern slavery which is still in place in other Gulf countries.

Qatar’s next step is to change the law for domestic workers so they have the same freedom as all other workers.

The up to 5% of migrant workers who will require a “no objection certificate” to leave the country is an interim measure while new systems are put in place.

We will monitor the situation of those workers to make sure no exit permits are denied without a proper chance of appeal”, said Sharan Burrow, General Secretary, International Trade Union Confederation.

The International Labour Organisation has been working with the State of Qatar on a three-year programme on working conditions and labour rights for migrant workers.

“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. 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,” said Houtan Homayounpour, the Head of the ILO Project Office for the State of Qatar.