Sharjah: An unpaid bank loan has pushed an Emirati into a situation where he is even unable to renew his passport.
Distraught at the manner in which his financial troubles are impacting his family — he is unable to get a job or send his children to school — he is now calling on the authorities to review rules linking the issue of passports and residence visas to the status of cases filed by banks against individuals.
Sultan Ebrahim Hassan Abdullah Al Mazem, 35, took a bank loan of Dh86,000 in 2006 but subsequently failed to meet the payment schedule after losing his job.
Al Mazem, who lives in Sharjah, has four small children. He lost his job in the armed forces in 2006. His passport expired the same year but he has been unable to renew it since because of the loan.
His difficulties were compounded when he could not get passports for his four children. His two younger children do not have birth certificates as a direct consequence of his inability to get his own passport renewed. He is also unable to find a job because of his troubles with the bank.
"The bank reported me to police when they came to know that I lost my job. My passport expired and I tried several times to renew it in order to find a job to support my family but officials at the Naturalisation Department in Sharjah refused to renew it because I have a bank case [pending against me]," he says with tears in his eyes.
Al Mazem admits his lack of seriousness cost him his job and that he owes his former employers Dh9,701. "I regret being careless but I'm the father of four children and I cannot provide a good life for my children," he lamented.
He said his children are not going to school because both public and private schools demanded to see valid passports of the father besides valid passports and nationalities of the children.
Al Mazem said his elder son Saif, 9, and his daughter Mariyam, 5, had thus been shut out of school.
He said his younger daughter Manal, 4, and son Majid, 2, do not have birth certificates because of his expired passport.
"Manal has a letter from the hospital that she was born but Majid has no official document because I could not pay the full cost of my wife's delivery," he said.
He said he had tried his best to find a job but every firm he approached had asked for a valid passport.
"I borrow from my brothers Dh100 or Dh50 every now and then. In the house there is no electricity or water because I have been unable to pay the bills. During daytime, I stay at my brother's house. They provide food for me and my children and at night I go home to sleep," he said.
"I cannot pay the rent also," he said. "I need to work but I'm helpless."
Al Mazem said he is ready to do any job even if that means cleaning cars on the street. "Last year I got work at a place in Ajman but they asked me to leave after three months because they could not issue a labour card since my passport had run out," he said.
"I need to support my family and if I renew my passport I can find work and repay the loan," he said.
"Several Eids and Ramadans have passed and I have been unable to buy new dresses for my children."
Al Mazem says he has no other identification documents but his expired passport. "Two months ago the Ministry of Labour wanted to arrest me as they thought that I am an illegal resident but they recognised me as an Emirati when my brother pleaded for me," he said.
He says he tried several times to renew his passport at the Sharjah Naturalisation Department but was told each time that he would have to clear the loan first.
Bank clearance critical
Gulf News, on contacting Sharjah Naturalisation Department, was told that the department would not process any transaction for individuals who had taken loans till financial issues had been sorted out with the banks.
Passports of Emiratis will only be renewed once such formalities are completed. In the case of expatriates, their residence will not be renewed if they are facing police cases pertaining to bank loans.