The Amir of Qatar, HH Tamim bin Hamad Al Thani, made Qatar the first country in the Arabian Gulf and Middle East to guarantee political asylum by implementing article 58 of the Qatari constitution. The new law was immediately recognized by the Qatar National Human Rights Committee, independent of the Qatari government, for meeting the organization’s recommendations to adopt international standards in offering asylum to political refugees.
This dramatic policy change coincides with a flurry of recent reforms in Qatar, including abolishing of the exit visa requirement for the vast majority of foreign workers and formalizing the process of applying for permanent residency in Qatar – again, making Qatar the first country in the Gulf region to do so.
Qatar has historically been committed to supporting the welfare of refugees, most notably from Syria, having already provided $1.6 billion in humanitarian aid. Qatar has coordinated with a UN General Assembly initiative to provide education and professional development for Syrian children and youth, a program that has benefited over 400,000 Syrians over five years. Additionally, Qatar hosts more than 60,000 Syrians, including over 7,000 who were united with their families.
These dramatic developments in Qatar’s legal framework were met with praise by the Human Rights Watch (HRW). The head of the HRW, Middle East Office, Sarah Leah Watson tweeted the following:
Great news that #Qatar has passed region’s first Asylum Law – real security for political exiles in region, hopefully a model for other GCC states who have no asylum or refugee laws. This is a very big deal.
— Sarah Leah Whitson (@sarahleah1) September 5, 2018