In a much-awaited move, Qatar has finally tweaked its controversial exit visa system and now on, foreign workers will not require their employer's permission to leave the country.
The previous regulation has often been slammed and labelled as modern day slavery, after which Qatar had said in September that it had approved a legislation to scrap the system. And the interior ministry announced that the reform came into force on Sunday, October 28.
"Law No. 13 of 2018... regulating the entry, exit and residency of expatriates is being implemented starting today," the interior ministry said on Twitter.
While the foreign employees can leave the country temporarily or permanently without the permission of their bosses, the employer too retains a few powers. As per the law, an employer can submit a list of employees to the Ministry of Administrative Development, Labour and Social Affairs who will be required to take the permission of the boss before leaving the country, reported the Qatar News Agency
This will mostly be due to the nature of their work and must not exceed 5 percent of the total workforce.
The International Labour Organisation Project Office of Qatar has lauded the move and said that it would have a "positive impact" on migrant workers. "Great news! As of today, exit visas no longer needed for the majority of workers in Qatar," it tweeted.
"As of October 28, the majority of workers covered by the labour code in Qatar will no longer require an exit permit. This will have a direct and positive impact on the lives of migrant workers in Qatar," Houtan Homayounpour, head of the ILO Project Office, said in a video message on Twitter.
"We look forward to continuing our collaboration with the government, employers, workers and other stakeholders on moving forward with the ambitious labour reform agenda of Qatar."
The move comes at a time when Qatar is set to host the FIFA World Cup in 2022, and the nation has faced much flak for its treatment of migrant workers readying venues for the mega show. Amnesty International had earlier said that migrant workers readying the infrastructure for the 2022 World Cup have been facing "appalling treatment" for a while now.
The NGO for human rights had spoken to 132 contract workers readying the Khalifa International Stadium in Doha and 102 landscapers working at the Aspire Zone sports complex and they said that they have faced human right abuses of some form or the other, reported the Guardian. These abuses ranged from being forced to live in dingy and seedy homes to working in extremely high temperatures.
"My life here is like a prison. The work is difficult, we worked for many hours in the hot sun. When I first complained about my situation, soon after arriving in Qatar, the manager said, 'If you want to complain you can, but there will be consequences. If you want to stay in Qatar, be quiet and keep working.' Now I am forced to stay in Qatar and continue working," one of the workers had said.