Qatar allows French player to leave after 17-month ban
Qatar, the 2022 World Cup host, has finally allowed a French footballer to leave after being stuck for 17 months due to a pay dispute with his club, France's ambassador said Wednesday.
Al-Jaish player Zahir Belounis has obtained an exit visa, which is usually controlled by employers in the Gulf state under its controversial "kafala", or sponsorship system, Ambassador Jean-Christophe Peaucelle said.
"I confirm that Mr. Belounis has received his exit visa and that he will leave Qatar tomorrow to France," Peaucelle said.
This was the result of "intensive work between the French embassy and Qatari authorities," he said.
The French-Algerian footballer, 33, was not able to leave Qatar since June 2012, after he filed a complaint against Al-Jaish over a payment dispute.
The club insisted he would not be granted the exit permit unless he dropped the case.
The global players' union FIFPro has said it is to start a four-day visit to Qatar on Thursday for talks with Qatari football authorities and organisers of the 2022 World Cup.
The association said it would "not sit idly by as the rights of the players are being abused".
Qatar and Saudi Arabia are the only Gulf states that continue to impose an exit visa on foreign employees who want to leave.
Human Rights Watch has denounced the kafala system as abusive.
"The kafala, or sponsorship, system ties migrant workers' residency permits to sponsoring employers, whose written consent is required for workers to change employers or leave the country," it has said addressing the issue of migrant workers in Saudi Arabia.
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