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2005-05-12 12:16:00
Embassy Doha
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						UNCLAS SECTION 01 OF 02 DOHA 000858 



E.O. 12958: N/A


1. (U)Summary. Sponsorship rules are believed by many to be
at the heart of labor issues and disputes in Qatar. The
current law requires expatriate workers to have the signed
permission of their sponsors when changing employment or
departing Qatar. Critics of the law allege that it creates
a system of servitude and leads to the abuse of foreign
workers. These criticisms have led to calls for changes in
sponsorship rules. End Summary.


The Current Law's Provisions


2. (U) Qatari legislation addressing expatriate labor and
sponsorship is found in Law No. 3 of 1984. According to
the law, persons intent on entering or residing in Qatar in
order to work must have a sponsor. The law stipulates that
expatriate laborers cannot leave the country without a
signed exit permit. Further, according to Article 10, the
exit permit must be signed by the sponsor or his
representative in front of the appropriate official at the
Emigration Department. In the event that the sponsor or
his representative cannot be present, the signature on the
permit must exactly match that on record at the
Department. Exemptions from this requirement are allowed
only in instances in which the sponsor refuses to sign the
permit without an acceptable reason for doing so, or if the
sponsor dies while outside the country without designating
a representative. The law further stipulates that the
expatriate laborer cannot legally work for one person while
sponsored by somebody else.


Practical Implications of the Sponsorship Law


3. (U) Given the exit permit requirements, an expatriate
laborer must have a signed exit permit every time he wishes
to travel out of Qatar. Further, the laborer cannot change
employment unless he obtains a written release from his
sponsor. The extent of power conferred on sponsors leaves
expatriate laborers vulnerable to abuse.

4. (U) There have been many instances of sponsors
withholding their consent for the worker to travel or
change employment in order to force the employee to work
for longer periods, or to avoid having to pay salary owed
to the worker. Many employers also withhold the passports
of their workers, do not get the workers' passport stamped,
or fail to renew their work visas and residence permits.
The workers then encounter a myriad of problems when trying
to leave the country, often culminating in their detention

5. (U) Many workers wishing to change employers report that

their salary arrears are put into jeopardy as some
employers will refuse to pay the arrears, offering instead
written release to change employers. In a recent survey
conducted by a local Arabic paper "Al Sharq," expatriate
laborers characterized the stringent requirements in the
sponsorship law as tantamount to slavery. The requirements
of the sponsorship law do deprive expatriate laborers of
basic rights and create situations constituting forced
labor as defined by the ILO, i.e., involuntary work exacted
under the menace of penalty.


Visa Fees


6. (U) High visa fees also exacerbate and contribute to the
sponsorship problems. Fees for work visas and changing
sponsorship are supposed to be the responsibility of the
sponsors. However, in practice, many laborers are often
forced to pay these fees. Further, foreigners who sponsor
other expatriate laborers must pay a disproportionately
higher fee than their Qatari counterpart. The fee for a
work visa under expatriate sponsorship is the equivalent of
$335, as opposed to the fee for Qatari sponsorship, which
is $60. Sponsors have a three-month grace period within
which to pay for the work visas, after which time there is
a fee assessed for each day the visa is not paid. The fees
for changing sponsorship are as follows: approximately $420
for the first request, $565 for the second request, and
$700 for the third request.

7. (U) Many expatriate laborers coming to work in Qatar
encounter delays in getting the work visa within their
first three months in country because the sponsor does not
have employment for them. The worker, who ends up without
salary for months, must either work illegally (which many
do) or leave the country. Those who choose to stay must
find a new sponsor. Unless that individual is a skilled
worker, he might have to pay the change in sponsorship and
work visa fees as well as the late fines. For the average
laborer, the total amount of the fees are in excess of
their monthly salary. An employer seeking skilled laborers
is more willing to settle these fees than an employer in
search of unskilled laborers, who are in abundance in


New Sponsorship Law


8. (U) A new law is said to be coming soon that will relax
the strict laws regulating the sponsorship of expatriate
laborers. The pending sponsorship law is seen as a
response to growing resentment and criticism of the current
sponsorship law, which many--expatriates and
Qataris--denounce for creating a system of servitude for
expatriate laborers.