Qatar released new statistics concerning its Expat Grievances Committee this week. Expats whose travel requests are denied by their employer must appeal to the committee in order to leave the country. The committee determines if the applicant is facing any criminal charges or debt, and then requires the employer to explain their reasoning for denying the permit.
Over 761 were received between December 13 and February 15, 213 of which were rejected, 485 approved, and the remaining in consideration.
The Expat Grievance Committee, composed of representatives from the national Human Rights Committee (NHRC) and the ministries of Labour and Interior, allows workers to more easily challenge employers who deny their exit permit requests – but backslides on the stronger reforms Qatar earlier proposed to the exit permit system. During the first ramblings of kafala reform in 2014, officials suggested an automated system that requires expats to apply for a permit directly to the ministry and left the onus on the employer to lodge an appeal. When Law No 21 of 2015 regulating the entry, exit, and residence of expatriates came into force on December 13 2016, expatriates planning to travel were still required to inform their employer, who would then inform an “Expatriate Exit Committee” three days before the exit date.
Law No 1 of 2017, an amendment to Law No 21, elaborates on the permissible conditions for an expatriate worker to exit the country before their contract ends but leaves intact the requirement to obtain employer permission before any travel. If their request is rejected, they can appeal to the committee, which must settle their complaint within 72 hours. According to an official quoted by the Gulf Times, "If there are no serious complaints pending against the applicant, the committee will grant the travel permit."
Qatar has hailed Law No 21 as an abolishment of the Kafala system. But the exit permit requirement is a cornerstone of the system and one of the most restrictive components of the country’s migration law.
Saudi Arabia remains the only other GCC country to still require exit permits.