Sharjah: Companies in the country including the free zones are not allowed to keep their employees’ passports against their will, says a senior official at the Ministry of Labour.

His call came when Gulf News sought comments from the ministry on the issue that the Sharjah Airport International Free Zone Authority is not only holding the passports of employees but also fines them Dh10 per day in case they delay returning their passports after going on vacation or for any official work.

Gulf News has learnt that a fine of Dh10 daily is imposed by SAIFZA on people sponsored by the free zone if they refuse to hand over their passports.

A British technical manager, who works for a company based at the free zone and who refused to keep his passport with it, is facing a Dh10 daily fine for not depositing his passport.

“I have been working as a technical manager in a Sharjah Saif Zone-based company since 2012. The authority has told me that I will be fined Dh10 per day unless I give them my passport which I’m not planning to do,” said Rob .M.

Rob. M told Gulf News that he has refused to keep his passport with the free zone because his passport belongs to him and no one has the right to retain it.

According to the authority, all the passports having Saif Zone visa or entry passes must be kept with the authority.

A spokesperson from the authority said that any person who has requested their passports for travel, renewal or any such requirements are requested to return their passports to the administrative department after completion of their work.

“If the passport is not returned within one month a fine of Dh10 per day will be imposed on employees for the additional days,” the spokesman said.

Rob M. said that he can understand keeping construction workers’ passports with their companies for safety reason because many of them live in one room and there is always a fear of their losing their passports.

The spokesman of the authority said it is their right to set the rules which are suitable for the free zone and that the free zone does not abide by the labour law or the foreigners’ affairs law of the Ministry of Interior.

The legal adviser of the Ministry of labour told Gulf News that it is illegal for an employer, whether in or outside free zones, to hold employees’ passports.

“It is not allowed for the employer to hold the passports of employees against their will,” said the legal adviser.

The federal law and the regulations of the Ministry of Interior say companies cannot retain workers’ passports.

A senior official from the Ministry of Labour told Gulf News on Saturday that private businesses and government institutions cannot hold employees’ passports and if they do so they are breaking the federal law.

“The practice of retaining passports in the UAE is illegal in accordance with court rulings,” the official said.

According to a senior police official the sponsor holding the employee’s passport is illegal. If this occurs, the worker can approach the nearest police station and the company will have to hand over the passport there.