Qatar Agrees to Halt Kafala System

The cooperation aims to improve employment conditions and recruitment practices for migrant workers, ensure timely payment of wages, strengthen labor inspection and occupational safety and health standards, and enhance protection from forced labor.

The International Labour Organization's Governing Body has closed a complaint alleging that Qatar was not observing the Forced Labour Convention, 1930 or the Labour Inspection Convention, 1947, with respect to migrant workers, and it welcomed Qatar's commitment to ensure fundamental principles and rights at work for all workers and to end the kafala sponsorship system.

ILO said Nov. 8 that the Governing Body also endorsed the launch of a comprehensive three-year ILO technical cooperation program in Qatar. ILO Director-General Guy Ryder signed a partnership agreement with Minister of Administrative Development, Labor and Social Affairs of Qatar Dr. Issa bin Saad Al Jafali Al Nuaimi for the three-year technical cooperation project.

The complaint, submitted to the International Labour Conference in 2014, concerned the failure of the Government of Qatar to maintain a legal framework sufficient to protect the rights of the migrant workers consistent with international law and to enforce existing legal protections; it had been discussed at numerous sessions of the Governing Body, and the technical cooperation program was developed on the basis of a high-level ILO visit to Qatar in March 2016. It calls for ILO and the Government of Qatar will work together to strengthen national regulations and practices, and the capacities of the government, employers, and workers to realize fundamental principles and rights at work, in line with international labor standards.

The cooperation aims to improve employment conditions and recruitment practices for migrant workers, ensure timely payment of wages, strengthen labor inspection and occupational safety and health standards, enhance protection from forced labor, and give workers a voice in labor-related matters.

"The ILO welcomes the commitment of Qatar to engage in substantive cooperation with the organization for the promotion and protection of workers' rights and looks forward to the successful implementation of the cooperation program over the next three years," Ryder said.

The partners also will support the implementation of numerous measures adopted by the government of Qatar to replace the kafala system with a contractual employment relation and to address passport confiscation, contract substitution, and restrictions on the ability of migrant workers to change employers and leave the country, according to ILO.

Amnesty International and others have reported that migrant workers brought in to build World Cup 2022 venues were being exploited, owing large recruitment fees, working excessive hours, and losing their passports.

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