Abuse of vulnerability Immigration status Retention of travel and identification documents
Article 9 provides that the personal documents of individuals must be returned to their owner upon completion of the residency paperwork, which must be completed within 90 days of the arrival of the employee in Qatar. This provision makes it illegal for sponsors to confiscate their employees’ passports.
While retaining a worker’s passport does not necessarily indicate that an employer intends to be abusive, (i.e. there can be good practical reasons such as the employer’s need to renew residence permits in a timely manner) the widespread practice of document retention severely restricts the worker’s freedom to choose to leave Qatar, and can have a significant impact on the worker’s perception of his freedom.
The requirement for an employer to return the worker’s passport after obtaining a residence permit is widely ignored in practice.
The penalty for failure to return a worker’s passport is a fine of up to 10,000 Qatari Riyals (Article 52). During the period going from April 1, 2013 through March 31, 2014, the government reported fining 27 sponsors for withholding passports. Moreover, according to the Special Rapporteur on the Human Rights of Migrants, François Crépeau, most of the migrants he met during his mission to Qatar were not in possession of their documentation. This included many migrants in the deportation centre, who had allegedly absconded from abusive employers. The Rapporteur noted that the explanation provided by the authorities, that most migrants prefer to let their employers keep their passports for them out of fear of loss or theft, contrasted with the testimonies of migrants.
According to recent studies conducted by Qatar University’s Social and Economic Survey Research Institute, despite laws against passport confiscation, 86 to 90 percent of expatriate workers’ passports are in their employers’ possession. While most employers are in violation of the Sponsorship Law, according to the US Trafficking in Persons Report, only 27 sponsors were fined in 2013-2014 for withholding passports and none in 2015. Therefore, we can say that in practice this regulation is applied in few cases. According to the US Trafficking in Persons Report, so far the government’s primary solution for resolving labour violations has been to transfer a worker’s sponsorship to a new employer with minimal effort to investigate whether the violations constituted forced labour.
Any Expatriate who is resident in the State of Qatar shall obtain a permit from the appropriate competent authority. The sponsor shall comply with the formalities for the required residence permit and the renewal thereof, provided that the application for renewal is made within a period that shall not exceed ninety days from the date of the expiry of the said permit. The sponsor shall deliver to the sponsored person his passport or travel document after finalizing the residence formalities or after applying for the renewal thereof.
Law / Qatar / Law No. 4 of 2009 Regarding Regulation of Expatriates' Entry, Departure, Residence and Sponsorship (the Sponsorship or Kafala Law)
The Sponsorship Law sets out the framework through which expatriate workers are permitted to reside and work in Qatar, restricting their ability to work for an employer other than their sponsor and imposing requirements related to their ability to exit Qatar (such as the requirement to obtain a permit to exit).The sponsorship law has been heavily criticised for establishing a framework that creates conditions under which forced labour can result from the actions of abusive employers. It is expected that the sponsorship system set out in the law will be the subject of reform to address those criticisms.
This Law has been amended by Law No. 21 of 2015 on the Regulation of the Entry and Exit of Expatriates. Changes will enter into force 1 year after the publication of Law 21/2015, on the 27th of October 2016.