(Image source from: Zaman al-Wasl)
Qatar has sanctioned legislation to scrap controversial exit visas which need all overseas workers to acquire their employers' approval to leave the country, according to official statements published Tuesday.
There are nearly two million foreign workers in Qatar, many employed directly or indirectly on vast infrastructure projects for the football World Cup, which will take place in the Gulf in 2022.
According to the new law, only a maximum of five percent of each company's workforce - thought to be those in the most senior positions - will still require approval to leave Qatar.
The law change "regulating the entry, exit, and residency of expatriates" was issued as an Emiri decree by the country's ruler Sheikh Tamim bin Hamad al-Thani, reported the Qatar News Agency.
However, no further inside information was given by the government and it was not instantly unsubtle when the new law will come into force.
"The adoption of this law is another step in our continued drive to provide decent work for all migrant workers in Qatar and to ensure their protection," said labor minister, Issa Saad al-Jafali al-Nuaimi.
The decision was immediately backed by the United Nations International labor Organization, which opened an office in Doha this year as part of a three-year agreement to oversee labor reform.
"The ILO welcomes the enactment of (the law), which will have a direct and positive impact on the lives of migrant workers in Qatar," said Houtan Homayounpour, head of the ILO's Doha office.
"This first step towards full suppression of exit permits is a clear sign of commitment by the government of Qatar to labor reforms."
Critics of Qatar's labor practices have long called for the abolition of the exit visa, viewing it as a cornerstone of the derided "kafala" - or sponsorship - system.
By Sowmya Sangam