Bosses in Oman told not to keep a worker’s passport
November 2, 2015 | 8:18 PM
by Fahad Al Ghadani/[email protected]

Muscat: Passports of expatriates are still being kept by employers despite the government warning companies not to do so.

Salim bin Said Al Badi, director general of labour welfare at the Ministry of Manpower, said the ministry has received complaints about such violations.

“There are still some who are violating this rule. We have complaints on this matter and we try to deal with them legally,” he said.

He added that the ministry had issued a circular a couple of years back, advising the employers not to hold the passports of expatriates, unless they requested them to do so.

“The Ministry of Manpower tries to settle the issue between the employers and employees, but in case they don’t reach an agreement, then the issue is referred to the Public Prosecution,” noted Al Badi.

He also pointed out that the Public Prosecution is the concerned authority that can take legal action against employers found guilty of violating this rule.

Salim Al Ghammari, Muscat Municipal Council member, said individual employers should be allowed to hold the passports of the employees and companies should let the employees keep their passports.

No guarantee

Fawaz Al Farsi, a private sector employee, said it doesn’t make sense to keep the passport because that does not guarantee that the worker will not escape, as there are many cases in which employees run away.

“We saw so many illegal workers registering for the amnesty. I am sure many of them didn’t have their passport. So it’s important that we follow the rule of the nation and not find a loophole to escape the law,” he said.

Ali Khalfan, who works in the government sector, expressed his disappointment at the rule. “I have a housemaid and it’s very risky to give her the passport,” he explained, while adding that under the current situation, his housemaid could abscond if she was given her passport.

“They know that the rules protect them more than the employers,” he said, adding that such a decision should be applied to only skilled expatriates as they can handle such issues better than unskilled expatriates.

Moath Al Ghilani, an Omani lawyer, said, “It is illegal to keep the passport of the employee as it is a personal document and legally, the property of the government issuing it. In Oman, normally a passport is handed over by the expat only to get a residence visa stamped on it and as per the rules, it should be returned after the stamping.”

However, Moath recommends involvement of a third party to keep passports, especially in the case of unskilled labourers.

“There are many cases of labourers and housemaids who run away from their employers. Often these people are forced to remain illegal because they don’t have a passport to approach their embassy or authorities. So it would make sense to get a third party like the Ministry of Manpower to safe keep some of the passport,” Moath suggests.

The Times of Oman also spoke to a reliable source at the Royal Oman Police (ROP) on its role in this matter. “ROP has nothing to do with expatriates’ passport in such matters”, said the source.

He added that ROP is authorised to deal with such cases only if an Omani passport is involved. “Since its other countries’ passports, the ROP has no power in that (scenario)”, said the source.

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