Qatar on Thursday denied it was violating a new labour law by blocking migrants from leaving the country, saying it was committed to enforcing reforms to improve the rights of millions of foreign workers.
A new law making it easier for migrants to change jobs and leave the Gulf state — where many of them have been recruited to build soccer stadiums ahead of the 2022 FIFA World Cup — came into effect in December.
But rights groups say the new law is not being enforced and that scores of migrant workers from countries such as India, Bangladesh and Nepal have been refused permission to leave the country since the law was passed.
The Qatari government said in a statement that any suggestion it was not committed to enforcing the reforms or that it was denying the freedom of movement of foreign workers was "false".
The government confirmed that 213 out of 184,551 requests for exit permits have been denied, but said this was because the individuals were facing criminal charges.
"We have explicitly stated that expatriates would be prevented from leaving Qatar if there is strong evidence that the expatriate has committed fraud or is attempting to evade prosecution for a crime," the government statement said.