April 27, 2019

The UN’s International Labour Organization (ILO) announced that Qatar will abolish Kafala, its controversial exit visa system for all foreign workers by the end of 2019. The Qatar has introduced a series of labour reforms since its selection as the 2022 World Cup host.


  • Background: The Kafala (Sponsorship) System emerged in the 1950’s to regulate the relationship between employers and migrant workers in many countries in West Asia.

  • Regions of implementation: It remains the routine practice in the Gulf countries and also in the Arab states of Jordan and Lebanon.

  • Reason for introducing it: To provide temporary, rotating labour that could be rapidly brought into the country in economic boom and expelled during less affluent periods, with the event setting in motion a huge construction programme employing foreign workers.

  • Features and criticism:
    • Under the Kafala system a migrant worker’s immigration status is legally bound to an individual employer or sponsor (kafeel) for their contract period.

    • The migrant worker cannot enter the country, transfer employment nor leave the country for any reason without first obtaining explicit written permission from the kafeel.

    • Often the kafeel exerts further control over the migrant worker by confiscating their passport and travel documents, despite legislation in some destination countries that declares this practice illegal.

    • The power that the Kafala system delegates to the sponsor over the migrant worker, has been likened to a contemporary form of slavery.

Source : The Hindu