Stranded French Footballer Wins Battle To Return Home, Granted Exit Visa
French footballer ZAHIR BELOUNIS, trapped in Qatar without pay due to the country's sponsorship system for migrant workers, "has been granted an exit visa after a two-year struggle," according to Owen Gibson of the London GUARDIAN. In a message tweeted by his brother, MAHDI, Belounis said, "I thank people for everything. If I am out, it is because of your fantastic commitment and support for human rights." Mahdi "confirmed that an exit visa has been granted and that he expects him to arrive at Charles de Gaulle airport in Paris with his wife and two young children on Friday" (GUARDIAN, 11/27). In London, Oliver Kay reported the 33-year-old said in September that he had "repeatedly been denied an exit visa from Qatar due to a dispute with his club, Al-Jaish, relating to almost two years of unpaid wages." He was "required to sell his possessions to support his family" and he spoke of “black ideas,” saying, “Do they want me to kill myself? Sometimes I think that is the only way to finish this.” Hopes "were raised and then dashed several times, but finally an agreement has been reached" between Belounis, Al-Jaish and the French Embassy in Qatar. Under the kafala system, workers "cannot leave Qatar without an exit visa that can only be granted with the permission of their sponsor." Belounis’s sponsor, El Jaish, "refused to grant that permission while he remained in dispute with them." It is "not yet known whether he was required to make any financial or legal concessions before being granted his visa" (LONDON TIMES, 11/27).