Reported by Noor Mohammed, Bureau chief, Qatar.
Qatar is all set to open the first ever Qatar Visa Centre (QVC) outside the State to ensure protection against health problems that may originate abroad and reduce the risk of serious diseases being brought into the country. The first phase of the new recruitment mechanism under which work visa-related procedures are to be completed in the home countries of expatriate workers before they arrive in Qatar, will come into effect on October 12, when the first QVC opens in Sri Lanka. These and other details of the initiative were explained at press conference in Doha by officials from the ministries of Interior (MoI), Public Health (MoPH), and Administrative Development, Labour and Social Affairs (MADLSA). Present at the press meet were Mohamed Hassan al-Obaidali, assistant undersecretary for labour affairs at the MADLSA; Major Abdulla Khalifa al-Muhannadi, director of the Visa Support Services Department at the MoI; and, Dr. Ibrahim al-Sha’r, director of the Medical Commission Department. Overall, 20 QVCs will be opened in eight countries over the next few months, the official Qatar News Agency reports. Meanwhile assistant undersecretary for labour affairs at MADLSA al-Obaidali said “This project is the first of its kind in the region at this level and comes as a confirmation of the role of the State of Qatar in the care and protection of the rights of expatriate workers and the project applies the highest international standards in this regard.”
QVC will provide work visa procedures including fingerprint, biometric data processing, conducting medical examination and signing work contracts. Under the project, a total of twenty QVC will be opened in eight countries. Seven centers will be opened in India soon in its cities Mumbai, New Delhi, Kochi, Hyderabad, Kolkata, Lucknow and Chennai. One center will be set up in Nepal’s capital Kathmandu; two in Bangladesh in Dhaka and Sylhet; two centers in Pakistan’s cities Karachi and Islamabad; three in Philippines in its cities Manila, Cebu and Davao; three in Indonesia’s cities Jakarta, Semarang and Bandung, and one in Tunis in Tunisia. These eight countries have agreements with the State of Qatar and represent the overall highest percentage of employees coming to Qatar. The procedures within these centers will take only one hour, while the results of the tests will be announced between 24 to 48 hours.
Medical Commission Department said that the aim of the project is to protect against health problems that may come from abroad, pointing out that the procedures of medical examination of expatriate workers prior to arrival in Qatar will reduce the risk of the arrival of some cases of serious diseases such as HIV / AIDS or hepatitis, as well as some chronic diseases or injuries that can be an obstacle to the worker in performing the work for which he is being recruited. The centers will operate based on an integrated electronic system for the implementation of procedures such as medical examination, fingerprint and biometrics, and the signing of work contracts for expatriates outside the State, under the supervision of and follow-up by the authorities concerned within Qatar.
Dr. Al-Sha’r also stressed that the Medical Commission will constantly follow-up on the approved medical examination centers outside the State to ensure the validity and quality of tests conducted for foreign workers. According to a brochure explaining the procedures, the expanded medical check-up will include a vision test, vaccination, and a physical examination by a doctor in addition to the standard blood test and X-ray. Abdulla Khalifa AlMuhannadi said that the workers visa procedures will be completed at those centers which were previously being done in the State of Qatar after the arrival of the worker. The service aims to protect the rights of expatriate employees, and to ensure the speedy completion of their transactions to start work immediately after entering the state, and avoid cases that the workers return to their home country if it is found they are incompetent for the purpose for which they were brought.
The process starts here in Qatar, where the employer or recruiter applies for approval of foreign worker visas based on work contracts according to the applicable regulation through the MoI website or Metrash 2. When the approvals are granted, the applicant can proceed with necessary procedures at the available QVC at his own country. Al-Obaidali said the new system would considerably help in reducing the number of labour disputes, such as over fraudulent contracts and illegal fees collected by recruitment agencies from employees in the country of origin. In addition, both the employer and employee would have a clear picture of the agreed terms and conditions, and hence the protection of the rights of both would be ensured. The service comes within the framework of the MoI’s keenness to provide excellent electronic services that will help deliver its services to applicants easily and save time and effort. Ministry of Foreign Affairs (MoFA) will monitor and supervise the services provided by the QVCs. The construction of these centers took into consideration the highlights of Qatari architecture while maintaining modern features that will facilitate smooth operations. Each center has an adequate number of counters arranged in a way that will ease the flow and progress of work, and employees can process all the necessary procedures in one place.
Opening of QVC centers in Bangladesh will bring a blessing to all Qatar bounding migrant workers who have been dancing as pantomime in the tune of middleman (visa traders) so far. One hopes that the establishment of QVC will mark the beginning of an end of visa trading.