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?