After stamping my passport, he kept looking at me and the picture in the passport. He asked me how I keep my moustache brushed and laughed, says Sujeev Kumar. Image Credit: Courtesy Sujeev

Sharjah: Officials at the Sharjah Department of Naturalisation and Foreign Affairs are investigating a case in which a passport control official allegedly retained a passenger’s passport because he did not like the latter’s moustache.

Brigadier Dr Abdullah Bin Sahoo, Director-General of the department, said they will study CCTV images to check whether the passenger’s allegations are correct and will then take action.

Sujeev Kumar, a software engineer, who flew from Thiruvananthapuram, Kerala, in India arrived in Sharjah on Friday. Kumar said that the passport control officer told him he would return the passport if he shaved off his moustache.

He claimed that the officer stamped his passport, but did not return it.  “After stamping my passport, he kept looking at me and the picture in the passport. He asked me how I keep my moustache brushed and laughed,” said Kumar.

Serious joke

Assuming it was a joke, the passenger was surprised when the immigration officer continued to ask questions about his moustache in a serious tone, making comments to his colleagues and other passengers waiting in the queue. Kumar said he did not understand the comments as the officer, who was an Arab, was speaking in Urdu. He said he does not understand Urdu.

“He finally told me: ‘If you agree to shave off your moustache, I will let you to go’ and kept my passport with him,” said Kumar.  Taking even that as a joke, Kumar asked for his passport back again, but was surprised when he was ignored.

“He kept my passport and told me very seriously again to remove my moustache if I wanted it back and called the next person in line,” he said.

Confused and slightly embarrassed, Kumar told the officer that he would not comply with his request and asked to speak to a superior officer. “I started arguing with him and only after asking to speak to his superior officer he returned my passport and allowed me to proceed,” he said.

The incident, which the resident refers to as unnecessary harassment, left him humiliated and embarrassed, Kumar said. He said there is nothing unusual about the style of his moustache, which he keeps trimmed. “I have lived in the UAE for more than nine years, and I have never faced such a situation before — it was very unusual,” said Kumar.