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MENAFN - The Peninsula - 04/10/2012

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(MENAFN - The Peninsula) DOHA: The State Cabinet yesterday ordered the setting up of a committee that would study the sponsorship rules - and understandably make recommendations paving the way for possible changes in the system.

The Cabinet held its weekly meeting and approved a proposal from the Ministry of Interior to set up a panel that would study the sponsorship issue, Qatar News Agency (QNA) reported yesterday giving no further details.

The Cabinet meet was presided over by the Prime Minister and Foreign Minister, H E Sheikh Hamad bin Jassem bin Jabor Al Thani, at the Emiri Diwan.

The move to form a panel to study sponsorship and exit permit rules comes after a little more than a year when the National Human Rights Committee (NHRC) called on the authorities concerned to amend the sponsorship law saying they impede the implementation of certain key provisions of the labour law.

The rule that a foreign worker cannot easily change his sponsor and that he cannot travel overseas without permission from his employer, comes in the way of properly enforcing the labour law, the rights body said in a study-cum-survey of a 1,000 construction workers last year.

"So the sponsorship law needs to be amended and made flexible," said the study making a case for altering the sponsorship and exit permit regulations.

The NHRC was also critical of foreign workers not being able to travel overseas whenever they wished to and said this put hurdles to enforcing the labour law.

The NHRC gets complaints from mainly low-income workers occasionally that they cannot travel home because their sponsors are not giving them exit permits or have been overseas for a long time.

Contacted for comment, a member of the board of directors of Qatar Chamber, representative body of the private sector, told this newspaper yesterday that the Chamber has not been informed of the Cabinet's decision to form a panel to study the sponsorship issue. "We had been asked by the Interior Ministry to give our opinion on the issue some two years ago and we complied with the request," said Rashid Hamad Al Azba.

Al Azba said he was sure that the committee that is being set up by the Cabinet would get in touch with the Chamber to seek businessmen's opinion on the sponsorship and exit permit issue.
According to him, the experience of some neighbouring countries that have announced having done away with the sponsorship system should be taken into consideration by Qatar before making any changes in the sponsorship rules. "It is important for us to learn from their experience," he said.
Meanwhile, Undersecretary at the Ministry of Labour, H E Hussain Yusuf Al Mulla, told a local Arabic daily in May that plans are afoot to change the sponsorship system and replace it by a system whereby employers and workers enter into a direct contract. "Under the proposed system a foreign worker could return to Qatar only after he quits his job and is offered work and visa by another company," he said. Al Mulla said the word 'sponsorship' is creating problems as the international community views it differently.The Peninsula


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