In what could bring a major relief for lakhs of Indian migrant workers in Qatar, the government of the oil-rich gulf nation has amended its controversial exit visa policy. The amendment will allow expat workers to leave the country without getting an approval from their employers.
The move to lift the controversial exit visa system comes in the run up to 2022 soccer World Cup which will be hosted by Qatar. Scores of migrant workers are involved in construction activities.
Several labour rights groups had demanded the removal of the exit visa system. There are more than 1.6 million foreign workers in Qatar, most of whom are from Asia. A sizeable number of the workers are from India.
A number of cases have emerged when foreign workers in Qatar have complained of being harassed by their employers who refuse to issue them exit permits, despite the workers having completed their contracts.
The International Labour Organisation (ILO) hailed this as a "significant step" that is aimed at making the country friendlier towards 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," spokesperson of the ILO's Doha office said.
However, despite the change in the exit visa policy, foreign workers will still need permission from their employers before switching jobs. Under this legal provision, a lot of migrant labourers are harassed and exploited because the employers often refuse consent citing frivolous reason.
Labour and rights groups have attacked Qatar for its "kafala" sponsorship system, which is common in Gulf states where large portions of the population is foreign.
The government's other pledged reforms include introduction of a minimum wage and a grievance procedure for workers.
With Reuters Inputs