The Abolishment of the Kafala System, How Qatar’s World Cup Nomination Led to Change in Their Labor System

By: Francis Mulligan

            The announcement that Qatar would host the 2022 FIFA World Cup was met with widespread criticism. How does a country with no historical success in international soccer and a population of fewer than two million people become the host of the world’s most notable sporting event?[1] Claims of corruption within FIFA were widespread at the time and were later substantiated with arrests.[2] FIFA officials were arrested under charges of racketeering, money laundering, and wire fraud a few years after the announcement. Following these arrests, leaked documents showed that Qatar had offered FIFA $400 million weeks before the bidding process had ended in order to host the tournament.[3]


Additionally, there were, and still are, numerous practical issues that plague the upcoming tournament. Notably, the average temperature in Qatar makes playing the tournament in the summer nearly impossible. As a result, the tournament, which has always taken place in the summer, has been moved to the winter.[4] This has raised problems for players and their domestic club teams, who compete throughout the winter months. Numerous domestic leagues have come forward and said that they do not want the tournament to take place in the winter.[5] A spokesman for the English Premier League stated, “The prevailing view from the leagues has been that displacing the 2022 World Cup significantly from the original summer dates disproportionately impacts the sporting integrity of our competitions.”[6] Also, there are questions as to whether the infrastructure of Qatar can withstand the increased traffic the tournament would bring. The country’s infrastructure is designed for that of a small nation, as Qatar’s population at the time was under two million; the last World Cup saw over seven million tourists visit Russia.[7] An influx of almost four times Qatar’s population visiting the nation could provide a great strain on hotels, roads, airports, etc.[8] Most importantly, Qatar did not, at the time of the announcement, have any stadiums in which the games could be played. Despite this, the Qatari government assured FIFA that the stadiums would be built and completed by the start of the tournament.[9]


The need for new stadiums led to a large influx of migrant workers entering the country. Since the announcement of the World Cup, Qatar’s population has grown from 1.6 million to 2.6 million. Most of that growth is the result of the influx of migratory workers. Many of the workers hail from countries in the south of Asia, such as Nepal, Bangladesh, and India.[10]


All of this has shined a light onto Qatar’s labor system. Qatar, along with other nations in the Middle East (Bahrain, Jordan, Kuwait, Lebanon, Oman, Saudi Arabia, and the United Arab Emirates), employs the Kafala labor system.[11] Kafala, meaning sponsorship in Arabic, ties employees to specific employers.[12] The employers sponsor employees’ visas and issue residency permits.[13] The Kafala system is part of immigration law in these countries and is monitored and regulated by each nation’s Ministry of the Interior.[14] Issues arise due to the control the employers then have over the employees. Stories of employers taking their employee’s passports away for years, refusing to allow employees to change jobs, and wages being withheld for months at a time are numerous.[15] Furthermore, the working conditions on construction sites have been dangerous. Employees have claimed that they were being forced to work without water in the desert.[16] Lastly, employees have claimed that they were not allowed to leave the country without employer permission.[17] Any claims of abuse were disregarded by authorities who would meet with the employers of the workers. The employers would claim that nothing wrong had taken place. Then, workers would often be deported or punished for going forward with claims of abuse.[18] A lack of a legitimate system of redress for employees, along with the Kafala system has left migrant employees powerless in dealing with their employers.


Once the World Cup was been granted to Qatar in 2010, human rights groups across the globe began to scrutinize the Kafala system. Those criticisms fell upon deaf ears until 2013. In 2013, the International Trade Union Confederation warned that the 2022 World Cup in Qatar risked over 4,000 lives.[19] Mortality figures acquired by the organization showed that migrant workers from Nepal and India alone were dying at a rate of over one person per day.[20] This was at a time in which the government of Qatar was making public claims that over 500,000 more workers were needed to finish the World Cup’s construction on time.[21] In 2014, the Human Rights Council of the United Nations stated, “The recruitment process for migrants needs to be further formalized in order to prevent exploitation . . . The kafala system is a source of abuse and exploitation of migrants, and should be abolished.”[22]


Once the pressure of international criticism began to mount, Qatar attempted to make changes to the Kafala system, but they were not enough. Following a report by Amnesty International in 2016, the International Labor Organization (ILO) and Qatar entered into a three-year program to carry out extensive labor reformation.[23] The ILO is a UN employment rights agency whose mission is to advance social justice and set international working standards.[24] The focus of this three-year program is to adjust wage payments, to reform the Kafala system, and to provide workers with more power in labor negotiations.[25] This plan operated in a manner through which the ILO would make recommendations to Qatar in order to reach certain goals, but all of the decision-making would still be in the Qatari government’s hands.


Despite this three-year plan, migrant workers in Qatar still saw their wages withheld by employers. In 2018, multiple construction companies withheld wages from employees for several months before ceasing operations altogether, leaving thousands without any pay for months of work.[26] Additionally, as part of the reformation process, the ILO set up a complaint system for employees to seek redress against unfair labor practices. The ILO received over 6,000 complaints in a year from workers regarding the harsh working conditions or employer mistreatment.[27] The complaint system was supposed to be quick and efficient, where Qatari officials would issue a ruling on a complaint within six weeks. However, complaints took anywhere from three to eight months to be resolved instead.[28] Due to this elongated and ineffective complaint system, employees who were not paid their wages would forego civil action against employers and instead often elected to leave the country after working for months with nothing to show for it.[29] Many human rights organizations continued to call for the end of the Kafala system due to these continued issues. In August of 2019, over 5,000 workers took to the streets protesting the delay of wages and poor working conditions.[30]


Two months later, on October 17, 2019, Qatar pledged to abolish the “Kafala” system altogether and add a minimum wage to the country’s labor laws.[31] A Qatari official stated, “Qatar has made substantial progress on labour reforms and it continues to work with NGOs, including the International Labour Organization (ILO), to ensure that these reforms are far-reaching and effective.”[32]


The announcement has been met with acceptance but also hesitance. A spokesman for Amnesty International said that “it would be a major step forward if these measures finally allow workers to return home or change jobs without restriction. We will be closely scrutinizing the details of this announcement and pushing for any positive measures to be quickly and fully implemented.”[33] Due to the recent failed efforts of the Qatari government in reforming its labor system, human rights organizations understandably want to see the abolishment of the Kafala system play out before claiming this as a victory. However, this effort by Qatar is undoubtedly a step in the right direction.


In conclusion, a surprising positive emerged from the 2022 FIFA World Cup being given to Qatar. The granting of the World Cup to Qatar was, according to leaked documents, due to FIFA accepting a bribe from the Qatari government. Many issues regarding the tournament’s practicality remain, but the social activism and backlash over Qatar’s labor practices have led to the country abolishing a system that perpetuated inhumane labor practices. Now, Qatar has pledged to be one of the first countries in the Middle East to abolish the Kafala system and establish a working minimum wage. While these reforms are not yet in place, if the country follows through with their promises, then Qatar may be an example for other nations in the region to follow.

[1] Amnesty International, Reality Check: Migrant Workers Rights With Four Years To The Qatar 2022 World Cup,

[2] Evan Perez and Shimon Prokupecz, U.S. Charges 16 FIFA Officials in Widening Probe (2015),

[3] Qatar’s secret $880m World Cup payments to FIFA (2019),

[4] Steven Mufson, Facing Unbearable Heat, Qatar Has Begun to Air-Condition the Outdoors,

[5] Tony Manfred, FIFA moving the 2022 World Cup to winter is a total mess — and the world’s biggest teams are outraged (2015),

[6] Id.

[7] FIFA, 7.7 million football fans visit FIFA Fan Fest during Russia 2018,

[8] Mufson, supra note 3.

[9] Id.

[10] Amnesty International, supra note 1.

[11] International Labor Organization, Reform of the kafala (Sponsorship) System,

[12] Id.

[13] Id.

[14] Priyanka Motaparthy, Understanding Kafala: An archaic law at cross purposes with modern development (2015),

[15] Amnesty International, Qatar World Cup of Shame (2016),

[16] Id.

[17] Id.

[18] Id.

[19] International Trade Union Conference, Qatar 2022 World Cup Risks 4000 Lives (2013),

[20] Id.

[21] Id.

[22] François Crepéau, Special Rapporteur on the Human Rights of Migrants, Mission to Qatar, ¶ 25-32, 80, U.N. Doc. A/HRC/26/35 (April 23, 2014).

[23] International Labor Organization, Qatar,–en/index.htm.

[24] Id.

[25] Id.

[26] Amnesty International, Qatar: Despite Reform Promises, Migrant Workers Still Return Home Without Wages or Justice (2019),

[27] Id.

[28] Id.

[29] Id.

[30] Faras Ghani, Qatar Moves to Announce Abolishment of Kafala System (2019),

[31] Id.

[32] Id.

[33] Amnesty International, Qatar: Pledge to End Abusive ‘Kafala’ System Must Truly Transform Workers’ Rights (2019),

FGM Victims Deserve Better U.S. Asylum Protections

By: Bianca Gutierrez


From stifled whispers to impassioned shouts, our country is renewing focus on the conversation relating to the scale and scope of violence against women. The media covers headlining stories of sexual assault, domestic violence, and the strength in healing found in survivors of these events. One issue remains eerily ignored and yet horrifically prevalent: female genital mutilation (“FGM”). Because FGM is both invisible to the public eye and sometimes insufficient for asylum protections, victims of FGM face a unique barrier to asylum grants. Due to lack of binding uniform legal authority, FGM victims should be afforded protections spelled out in the Immigration and Nationality Act, instead of facing contradictory protections afforded by caselaw, USCIS guidelines, and IIRIRA.

Also known as female genital cutting (“FGC”), female genital mutilation is a tradition practiced worldwide that involves the “intentional injury or removal of the external female genital organs for non-medical purposes.”[1] FGM procedures vary, but most include the painful process of partial or total removal of the clitoris and labia minora and sealing the vaginal opening. This is meant to reflect the cultural importance of purity and chastity in young women. FGM procedures can also include “pricking, piercing, incising, scraping, and cauterizing the genital area.”[2]

Publicly occurring today in over twenty-nine countries, this practice is embedded in cultural and religious traditions that emphasize “traditional notions of femininity, control of female sexuality, preservation of family honor and preparation of marriage” and seek to remove parts of the female body that are considered “impure” or “unclean.”[3] Regardless of these antiquated motivations, the process of FGM cruelly strips women and girls of their autonomy and sexual agency. This extremely painful procedure can lead to a myriad of life-long health complications including severe bleeding, problems during urination, infertility, ovarian cysts, open sores in the genital region, hemorrhages, bacterial infections (tetanus or sepsis) during and after pregnancy, and increased risk of newborn deaths.[4]

Adding to the horrifying nature of FGM, victims are often subjected to the procedure without anesthesia, and the tools used are unsanitary and rudimentary, such as knives; these tools can worsen the possible health complications.[5] Victims are often forced to undergo pre-marital FGM and are physically restrained during the procedure by other women that have themselves suffered FGM.[6] Following most FGM procedures, victims are immediately bandaged from their knees to their waist and abandoned; it takes weeks to recover even while lying down.[7]

According to FGM victims, the consequences of undergoing FGM are often worse than the procedure itself and include ongoing physical, sexual, and psychological complications.[8] Specifically, the sexual and psychological effects of FGM leave victims facing irreversible consequences.[9] Unfortunately, the FGM procedure is widespread, even today. In 2013, the World Health Organization estimated that 30 million girls under the age of 15 are at risk of being cut.[10] With over 140 million victims throughout the world, female genital mutilation is internationally recognized as a violation of women’s fundamental and human rights.[11]

Due to the prevalent and dangerous nature of FGM, women and girls at risk of being cut have been fleeing violence in search of asylum across the globe. Beginning in the 1990s, courts around the world started recognizing FGM as a form of persecution for asylum claims.[12] In Aminata Diop (1991), the French Commission for Appeals of Refugees officially recognized female genital mutilation as a basis for persecution to woman “exposed to FGM against [their] will, where FGM was prescribed, encouraged or tolerated.”[13] The Immigration and Refugee Board of Canada followed suit in Farah v. Canada (1994), describing it as a “torturous custom” and extending asylum protection FGM victims.[14] The trend continued among international courts when the Australian Refugee Review Tribunal recognized the applicant’s well-founded fear of female genital mutilation in RRT N97/19046 (1997).[15] Additionally, the United Kingdom acknowledged in Yake (2000) that persecution through FGM constitutes a well-founded fear and described the violence as a serious “human rights issue” because “the procedure. . . amount[s] to torture or other cruel, inhuman or degrading treatment” in Fornah (FC) (Appellant) v. SSHD (Respondent) (2006).[16]

United States jurisprudence has evolved alongside that of the international community in recognizing FGM as a well-founded fear for asylum. In a 1996 landmark case, In re Fauziya Kasinga, the United States Board of Immigration Appeals (“BIA”) found that female genital mutilation constituted well-founded fear in, and the applicant was granted asylum because she was a member of a social group comprised of women in Togo who had not been cut and who refused to submit to FGM.[17] The court adopted FGM into the established definition of persecution because the level of harm inflicted met the standard set forth in in 8 U.S.C. § 1101(a)(42)(A) and was consistent with previous categorizations of persecution.[18] Importantly, this was the first time the court recognized FGM as persecution, relying heavily on “Considerations for Asylum Officers Adjudicating Claims from Women,” an Immigration and National Services memorandum.[19]

Because Kasinga set the precedent for past persecution asylum claims, the BIA drew a sharp contrast in Matter of A-T when an FGM victim filed for asylum asserting a well-founded fear of future persecution. The BIA reasoned that because FGM is a one-time procedure, victims of FGM lack basis to assert a well-founded fear of persecution in the future for the same type of harm inflicted. Using this rationale, BIA attempted to categorize FGM as an “isolated incident” of persecution, instead of what was observed in Kasinga that FGM is “continuing and permanent” type of persecution. However, this case was vacated and remanded by the Attorney General, and the federal courts generally agree that FGM is a permanent and continuing circumstance.[20]

The inconsistency of U.S. case law regarding protections for FGM victims reveals the need for binding legislation. The reduction of FGM to only past persecution reflects the deep misunderstanding of other cultures and dangers victims face around the world. The notion that BIA minimized the horrific, disfiguring procedure as nonpermanent, isolated incidents highlights the need for stronger protections for FGM victims in U.S. asylum laws.

To be clear, there are other legal protections that are afforded to FGM victims in the United States. These include the Gender Persecution Guidelines published by the Immigration National Services and the Illegal Immigration Reform and Immigration Responsibility Act (“IIRIRA”).[21] The Gender Persecution Guidelines officially recognized gender-based persecution as a potential ground for asylum and outlined important points for reference and clarification.[22] When the IIRIRA was published in 1996, Congress criminalized the practice of FGM to anyone that “knowingly circumcises, excises or infibulates the whole or any part of the labia majora or labia minora or clitoris of another person under the age of 18 years old.”[23] These legal protections are important for FGM victims and women and girls who are at risk of being cut; however, there still exists a gap of protections that contradict U.S. criminal law when these protections are not binding to FGM asylum seekers.

In order to strengthen existing asylum protections, victims of FGM and women and girls at risk of being cut should be afforded protections spelled out in the Immigration and Nationality Act and not subjected to the unpredictability of a guideline.[24] Because guidelines do not bind immigration officials, FGM-based asylum claims are left to the discretion of immigration judges.[25] Leaving the approval of FGM-based claims to immigration judges directly contradicts the domestic policy that clearly denounces FGM by criminalizing the practice in all its forms. No longer invisible and unheard, FGM asylum applicants should be afforded legislative protections when they seek asylum in the United States of America. These protections will minimize the possibility that crucial case law is overturned and that the standard set by other countries that afford protections for FGM victims with similar asylum claims is met.




[1] Pooja Shah, Note, Cutting Female Genital Mutilation from the United States: A European-Influenced Proposal to Alter State and Federal Legal Responses when Affording Relief to Somali Victims in Minnesota, 22 Cardozo J.L. & Gender 583, 584-85 (2016).Top of FormBottom of Form

[2] Id. at 585.

[3] Id. at 586-87.

[4] Id. at 586.

[5] United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees, UNHCR Guidance Note on Refugee Claims Relating to Female Genital Mutilation at 4 (May 2009),

[6] Shah, supra note 1, at 585.

[7] Vanessa Ortiz, Comment, Culture Shock: Expanding the Current Federal Law Against Female Genital Mutilation, 3 FIU L. Rev. 423, 424 (2008).

[8] UNHCR Guidance Note, supra note 5, at 3.

[9] Sanctuary for Families, Report, Female Genital Mutilation in the United States: Protecting Girls and Women in the U.S. from FGM and Vacation Cutting (2013),

[10] Sanctuary for Families Report, supra note 9, at ii.

[11] Id.

[12] United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees, UNHCR Guidance Note on Refugee Claims Relating to Female Genital Mutilation at 6 (May 2009),

[13] Id.

[14] Id.

[15] Id.

[16] Id.

[17] Id.

[18] In re Kasinga, 21 I. & N. Dec. 357, 366 (B.I.A. June 13, 1996); see also 19 I. & N. Dec. 211 (B.I.A. March 1, 1985).

[19] American Immigration Lawyers Association, INS Issues Guidelines from Womens Asylum Claims, AILA Doc. No. 95053180 (May 26, 1995),

[20] Top of Form

Matter of A— T—, 24 I. & N. Dec. 617 (B.I.A. September 22, 2008)Bottom of Form

[21] American Immigration Lawyers Association, INS Asylum Gender Guidelines, AILA Doc. No. 95053159 (May 31, 1995),; see also H.R. Rep. No. 104-828 (1996) (Conf. Rep.).

[22] American Immigration Lawyers Association Gender Guidelines, supra note 21.

[23] H.R. Rep., supra note 21.

[24] Eva N. Juncker, A Juxtaposition of U.S. Asylum Grants to Women Fleeing Female Genital Mutilation and to Gays and Lesbians Fleeing Physical Harm: The Need to Promulgate an INS Regulation for Women Fleeing Female Genital Mutilation, 4 J. Int’l Legal Stud. 253 (1998).

[25] Juncker, supra note 24.

Crimmigration: The Stigma Behind the Criminality of Immigrants

By: Kathleen Andrade


Immigration rates have been growing exponentially in the United States. Under the current Trump administration, significant immigration regulations have been imposed. Some of these regulations include: implementing the travel ban (which banned nationals of eight countries, most majority-Muslim, from entering the United States), cancelling the Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals (DACA) program (which provides work authorization and temporary relief from deportation to approximately 690,000 unauthorized immigrants brought to the United States as children), and ending the designation of Temporary Protected Status (TPS) for nationals of Haiti, Nicaragua and Sudan.[1] These types of regulations have exacerbated the stigma behind immigration.


Somewhere along the way, the term “immigrant” has adopted a negative connotation, and certain stereotypes have become associated with this group of people. Some of these include judgments of character and assumptions of actions. A common assumption is that all immigrants come to the United States illegally and are therefore criminals or that they are more likely to commit crimes when compared to native-born citizens. Therefore, there is a dual relationship between criminality and immigration of both documented and undocumented individuals in the United States and, with respect to that relationship, a more pronounced stigma exists. As it is such a broad classification of people, there are many tiers to immigration. Some examples are naturalized immigrants, undocumented immigrants who cross the border, immigrants who enter the country on a temporary visa, and immigrants who overstay that visa and later become undocumented. The United States takes pride in being a country founded on the idea that people deserve the chance to create a better future, which is why many people from developing countries or countries under political turmoil flee to the United States with the hope to encounter some form of stability.


What appears to be a result of these assumptions are harsh penalties and preventative measures implemented that promote a negative message of exclusion and resentment towards immigrants as a whole. For example, throughout his campaign, President Trump focused the nation’s attention on building a wall at the border as a preventative measure to stop immigrants from entering the United States from Mexico.[2] However, statistics show that from 2010 to 2017, the population of undocumented immigrants from Mexico fell by a remarkable 1.3 million.[3] The primary form of entry into the United States of undocumented immigrants was from overstaying their temporary visas, not from crossing the border illegally.[4]


Multiple studies have been designed to answer a lingering question: are immigrants more likely to commit crimes than native inhabitants? What might be shocking to some people, given the stereotypes that tend to be attached to the “immigrant” title, is that immigrants are less likely to commit serious crimes when compared to native-born citizens.[5] This holds true for both documented and undocumented immigrants. There is no satisfactory evidence to show that immigration has resulted in an increase in crime. “The problem of crime in the United States is not ‘caused’ or even aggravated by immigrants, regardless of their legal status. But the misperception that the opposite is true persists among policymakers, the media, and the general public, thereby undermining the development of reasoned public responses to both crime and immigration.”[6] It is difficult to make the determination that criminality and immigration have a direct correlation when the evidence to support that claim is not present; the accusations that are typically made regarding the crime rate by immigrants have no evidentiary support.


The impact of having a negative societal viewpoint on immigration is crucial because societal norms and behaviors can influence decisions and outlooks on issues. If society views immigrants in a negative light, it naturally follows that the legal system will also adopt those viewpoints in its laws and opinions. An example of this is 8 U.S.C. § 1324(a)(1)(A)(iv). In 2018, the Ninth Circuit, in United States of America v. Sineneng-Smith, held that 8 U.S.C. § 1324(a)(1)(A)(iv) was unconstitutional and that the overly broad plain language of the statute demonstrates how negatively immigrants are viewed. Subsection Four of the statute states, “[A person who] encourages or induces an alien to come to, enter, or reside in the United States, knowing or in reckless disregard of the fact that such coming to, entry, or residence is or will be in violation of law.”[7] In itself, Subsection Four would criminalize certain communications with non-citizen family members, communications related to advocacy for immigrants, or even communications between employers and employees.[8] These effects reach further than just immigrants, but also to the people around them, simply because immigrants are looked down upon.


Immigration is an issue that is becoming more relevant as the years progress. Due to its importance, one should be aware of the negative effects of the stigma behind immigration. Not only is it important to generally overcome ignorance and to better understand the realities of these situations, but it is also important to be aware that societal beliefs, while they might seem inconsequential, are significant and have the capability of spiraling into something greater.


The butterfly effect is a theory where one small action can result in a big difference later on. It is known for its famous analogy that a minor perturbation, such as the flap of a butterfly wing, can cause something as destructive and chaotic as a tornado somewhere else in the world. What might seem insignificant in the moment, such as a overgeneralized assumption or comment about immigrants entering the United States, can lead to legislation being passed or court opinions being decided that will have a lasting and disturbing impact on the lives of families. It is important to become aware of the realities of immigration policies in the United States in order to end the stigma.



[1] Sarah Pierce and Andrew Selee, Immigration under Trump: A Review of Policy Shifts in the Year Since the Election, Migration Policy Institute (December 2017),

[2] Robert Warren, US Undocumented Population Continued to Fall from 2016 to 2017, and Visa Overstays Significantly Exceeded Illegal Crossings for the Seventh Consecutive Year, Center for Migration Studies (Jan. 16, 2019),

[3] Warren, supra note 2.

[4] Warren, supra note 2

[5] Walter Ewing et al., The Criminalization of Immigration in the United States, Immigration Policy Center Special Report, Washington: American Immigration Council (Jul. 13, 2015),


[6] Rubén G. Rumbaut & Walter A. Ewing, The Myth of Immigrant Criminality and the Paradox of Assimilation: Incarceration Rates Among Native and Foreign-Born Men, Immigration Policy Center Special Report,” Washington DC: American Immigration Law Foundation (Spring 2007),


[7] 8 U.S.C. § 1324(a)(1)(A)(iv) (2012).

[8] 8 U.S.C. § 1324(a)(1)(A)(iv) (2012); see, e.g., United States v. Henderson, 857 F. Supp. 2d 191, 197 (D. Mass. 2012) (exemplifying an instance when an employer was charged and convicted based on communications with an employee); see also United States of Am. v. Sineneng-Smith, 910 F.3d 461 (9th Cir. 2018) (in which the Ninth Circuit found persuasive was a grandmother who asks her grandson to overstay his visa).