Tuesday, June 13, 2006

Please Sir, May I Have My Passport?

Today's Gulf News reports on a UAE Labour Ministry official explaining that it is, and always has been, illegal for employers to keep the passports of their employees.

This practice has been going on for as long as I've been in Dubai. The first company I worked for refused to give me my passport once they got it back from Immigration with my residence visa stamped in it. The second company I worked for would have liked to take care of my passport for me but I kicked up a total stink about it - pointing out the phrase printed in it that says the passport belongs to Her Brittanic Majesty, not me, and I am not allowed under any circumstances to surrender it to another Government or individual. Car hire companies have, in the past, tried to keep my passport as 'security'.

Which brings me to a story. Whilst residing in the UK, I had to leave the country at short notice, and my passport had expired. So I went in person to the passport office in Liverpool, and queued for half a day to get a new one. I didn't get it there and then, but they said it would be in the post later that day. And thanks to the marvels of the Royal Mail, it arrived the next morning. With my name spelled incorrectly. I called them about this, and they said they'd make a new one, but I had to promise to return the other one. So the new one arrived the next morning, and like an idiot I posted the old one back to them. Had I known then what I know now, I would certainly have kept it.

Anyhoo, back to the original story.

Isn't it ironic that this article has appeared in the Gulf News, when it is a fairly well-known fact that GN keeps the passports of its employees?


Blogger trailingspouse said...

This comment has been removed by a blog administrator.

10:15 pm  
Blogger Grumpy Goat said...

This whole business of retaining the employees' passports is to prevent people from absconding.

In Qatar, residents are subject to an Exit Permit system, whereby holders of Residence Permits are not allowed to leave the country without first obtaining a vital official piece of paper from the Department of Immigration.

Naturally, the issue of an Exit Permit is contingent on the employer writing to the Sponsor to request that a Permit be obtained.
Theoretically at least, no-one who owes anything to anyone is allowed to leave the country. The Employer has to confirm to the Sponsor that the hopeful traveller '...has no outstanding liabilities in Qatar'. The process can be done in an hour, but it's best to allow a week so that the passport and application forms can be lost, found, queried, subjected to public enquiry, lost again and finally buried in soft peat...before being recycled as firelighters.

One work-around is a Multi-Exit Permit, valid for a year, which makes a nonsense of all the above. Simply appear at the airport brandishing passport, ticket and multi-exit permit, and Robert is your mother's brother.

Not for nothing is life in Qatar sometimes described as 'like living in a fairly comfortable open prison.'

8:11 am  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

or the gullible first timer into Dubai who handed over his passport to his British boss at a 'British' company. And then whose father died suddenly and the company refused to return passport for the flight home for the funeral citing "admin issues, ministry difficulties" etc. And then demanded a fax confirming death of said father from grieving family in the UK. And then claimed 'passport lost in ministry' resulting in first timer not getting on flight to bid final farewell to a father he had loved and respected.

Yep, you guessed it. I was the first timer. Barbaric.


6:50 pm  
Anonymous Eman Ahmed said...

Hi, I'm a news reporter at Dubai based Emirates Today. Your story about a British employee who had to leave his passport with his boss and ended up missing his fathers funeral is something I'd like to cover. Do you know the person in question and can you provide me with contact details, so we can highlight this problem?
Thanks, I can be reached at 04 3062222 or 04 3062326 - Direct, or GSM 050 7254157.

12:56 pm  
Blogger Keefieboy said...

Eman: sorry, it was an anonymous post. 'DeMotivated' has posted a few times before on my comments, but I have no idea who he/she is...possibly they will see your post and get in touch.

2:31 pm  

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