Mohammad Kamarul Image Credit: Gulf News

Abu Dhabi: A Bangladeshi cleaner, who was going on vacation to see his new baby, was stopped at the airport for holding an expired passport. He was caught unawares as his employer had kept the passport in their safe custody and released it just one hour before his travel.

Mohammad Kamarul, 38, said he was eagerly waiting to have a glimpse of his 20-month-old baby boy whom he never met. “My wife was pregnant during my last vacation about 24 months ago. Since his birth, I had to be contended with his pictures sent by my wife,” said Kamarul who also has a 4-year-old daughter.

Kamarul’s plight shows some employers still keeps their employees’ passport although it is against the labour laws of the UAE.

He said he came to know that his passport had expired on April 20, 2018, when he reached the airline’s counter for a boarding pass at Abu Dhabi Airport on Tuesday afternoon [July 31]. “The airline staff was kind enough to check with their superiors whether there was any way to let me fly; but they said the rules did not permit,” said Kamarul who has been working as cleaner with the same company since 2007.

However, he said, his company executives were not keeping track of expiry dates of passports they keep. They had given him a copy of his passport when his visa was renewed in September 2017. “Unfortunately I lost it when I changed my cupboard. Since then I have been going from pillar to post at our office to get a copy but with no success,” said the cleaner who earns around Dh800 a month.

However, he requested Gulf News not to mention his company’s name and not to contact them for a comment, as it would affect his job.

“The company is not bothered about our inconvenience because we buy air tickets with our own money,” Kamarul said.

When Kamarul approached the Bangladeshi Embassy in Abu Dhabi they agreed to temporarily renew his passport for one year. “I have to book a new ticket after collecting the renewed passport from the embassy on Monday (August 6),” he said.

Mohammad Imran, the Bangladeshi Ambassador to the UAE, said he has come across some rare cases like this. “Some companies keep employees’ passports and they don’t check expiry dates,” he said.

He urged everyone — both employers and employees — to keep track of the expiry of dates of the passports.

He said the embassy’s gesture to temporarily renew the passport for a year will benefit amnesty seekers also who want to stay back in the UAE and apply for six-month visa for job search. “Therefore, they don’t need to wait for the regular renewal that takes up to six weeks.”

However, he clarified that Bangladeshis can just travel once to Bangladesh on the temporarily renewed passport. “To travel further from Bangladesh, they have to get a properly renewed passport for five years,” the envoy explained.