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Qatar ‘dragging its feet’ on migrant rights concerns

Human rights group Amnesty International accused 2022 World Cup host Qatar yesterday of dragging its feet over addressing concerns about the abuse of migrant workers.

The oil-rich nation, which relies heavily on South Asian migrant workers, laid out plans for workplace reforms six months ago.

Amnesty criticised the absolute monarchy for failing to tackle issues such as the kafala employee sponsorship system that ties expatriate workers to a single employer and requirements that workers obtain exit permits from their employers in order to leave the country.

It noted that Qatari officials increasingly acknowledge that labour problems exist and need improvement.

But Amnesty also warned that failure to put serious changes in place in the coming months “will call into question whether the Qatari authorities are serious about reform.”

Amnesty suggested that this meant that the “legacy of the Fifa 2022 World Cup would be the hundreds of thousands of workers who were exploited to make it happen.”

Qatari officials announced plans in May for legislation that could eventually end the controversial sponsorship system in its current form.

Sponsorship gives employers considerable sway over workers’ lives and leaves employees open to abuse, as workers wishing to leave the country or change jobs need their employer’s permission.

Labour and Social Affairs Minister Abdullah Saleh Mubarak al-Khulaifi told local newspaper editors last week that new legislation should be ready by the end of the year.

However, an advisory council must still weigh in on the draft law before it goes to the ruling emir for his approval.

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