In a big respite to foreign workers, including thousands of Indians, Qatar on Sunday implemented the controversial exit visa system. The system requires foreign workers to obtain their bosses' permission to leave the country.
"Law No. 13 of 2018... regulating the entry, exit and residency of expatriates is being implemented starting today," the interior ministry announced on Twitter.
Law No. 13 of 2018, which amended certain provisions of the Law No. 21 of 2015 regulating the entry, exit and residency of expatriates is being implemented starting today, Sunday 28 October 2018. #MoIQatar— Ministry of Interior (@MOI_QatarEn) October 28, 2018
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. According to a report by Hindustan Times in July, more than 600 Indian construction workers were stuck in Qatar after they lost their jobs, were denied salaries and their visas have expired.
They had also been living in sub-standard conditions in labour camps. Qatar has been criticism over the plight of foreign workers involved in other construction for the infrastructure required for the 2022 FIFA World Cup.
In September, Qatar announced that it had approved legislation to scrap the visa system. Under the new law, all but five per cent of a company's workforce -- reportedly those in the most senior positions -- can leave without prior permission from employers.Those not allowed to leave Qatar "for any reason" can file a complaint to the Expatriate Exit Grievance Committee that will "take a decision within three working days", the ministry said.
However, despite the change in the exit visa policy, foreign workers will still need permission from their employers before switching jobs. Labour and rights groups have attacked Qatar for its "kafala" sponsorship system, which is common in Gulf states where a large portion of the population are foreigners.