A handicapped and unemployed Indian has been desperately trying to retrieve his passport, which was handed over to his employer for safe custody, and to prove his innocence before the Sharjah public prosecutor’s office where his passport is pledged for a payment of Dh80,000.
Twenty-eight-year-old Haneef Mohammed Aliyaba (Indian passport No. E4282396) has partial disability on his right leg due to a polio attack when he was very young. His problems are caused by a bankrupt and absconding sponsor who allegedly misused his passport to obtain bail in a cheque bouncing case.
After all efforts to retrieve his passport failed, Haneef has now approached the Sharjah public prosecutor. He says he has been unable to go home for the last two-and-a-half years, and even when his father died on April 1 this year, he could not attend his funeral back home.
Claiming that he is innocent and never agreed to deposit his passport on behalf of his sponsor, he has sent a mercy petition to the chief public prosecutor of Sharjah Court: “My UAE residence visa number is 201/2007/2642896 and I am a handicapped person by birth. I was working for a company called Moon View Commercial Broker LLC in sales from 20th February, 2008 to 15th December, 2010.”
As is the practice in many companies, the employee’s passport was in the custody of his sponsor Abdul Muthalib Madiker Edinebba, an Indian national. “I told him to renew my visa which was due in January 2011, but now my visa has also expired,” Haneef said.
When his employer came under financial stress and faced cheque bouncing cases, he allegedly misused the employee’s passport. “He was put in prison and came out on bail by surrendering his passport to the public prosecutor. Later on he claimed his passport after depositing a relative’s passport with the prosecution. When the owner of the second passport demanded his passport back, the employer deposited my passport without my consent,” Haneef said.
Haneef says his employer had sought his permission to pledge his passport but he had refused. He alleges that his signature was forged to pledge his passport to the public prosecution and the employer has since been missing. “I have never visited the Sharjah public prosecutor’s office nor gave my consent to deposit my passport. I did not sign any consent letter to my sponsor,” says his complaint to the Sharjah public prosecution.
“I have been trying desperately to trace my sponsor. When I failed, I went to the Labour Ministry to file a labour complaint against the company. Even though my visa and labour card had expired, I approached the Labour Ministry. The Labour Ministry officials advised me to contact the public prosecutor’s office to regain my passport,” Haneef said. He came to know the complexity of the issue only when he tried to make out an outpass to leave the country.
“I also lodged a case against my sponsor on 18 July, 2011 and there was one hearing. My father had been admitted to a hospital and he was in the ICU and his condition was very critical. My wife had also fallen down in my home and she was admitted to the hospital. My father was every day asking about me, I desperately wanted to go home and see my father, wife and my three children,” Haneef said.
His father died on April 1 and now he does not see any ray of hope of going home. “I have to pay Dh80,000 to get my passport back. I don’t have any job for more than a year and I am surviving with the help of a few good friends,” he said.
Indian lawyer Ibrahim Khaleel said he has handled Haneef’s case. “We have handled similar cases in the past. Some employers misuse the employees’ passports to take loans or to get bail from courts.
“In one case, an Andhra worker is stranded after he bailed out a woman by pledging his passport. The woman absconded and the worker is unable to leave the country because his passport is with the public prosecution. Similarly, in Haneef’s case, he has to either pay the due amount or trace his sponsor.”
Poor Haneef can neither pay Dh80,000 in the court to regain his passport or trace his missing former employer who pledged his passport in court. He cannot even work to save enough money to get his passport back.
Ministry warns employers who force workers to sign settlements
The Ministry of Labour will not issue new work permits to companies if there are cases pending against owners who force workers to sign documents stating they received all financial dues.
According to an 'Al Khaleej' report, the ministry will also not allow such owners to open new facilities. However, it will renew labour cards that already exist.
The move aims to ensure the rights of labourers and help them abide by work contracts signed.
The ministry has called on workers to file complaints about employers who force them to sign on financial-receipt documents.
However, the complaints must be filed within 12 months of the documents being signed. Once they receive a complaint, ministry officials will study the case, hear out the employers' version and initiate appropriate legal action only if an amicable settlement is not found.
The Ministry stated that labour cards can be cancelled only if the employer submits documents to prove that all financial dues have been setlled with the respective employee.
All dues even if employee dies outside UAE
If UAE employees happen to die outside the country, then their families are entitled to receive financial dues including gratuity, according to the Ministry of Labour.
In the weekly session, while addressing labour issues, Khalil Khouri, Director of Work Permits, Labour Ministry, said: "If any person were to die outside the UAE, while being legally employed in the country, the financial dues of the deceased as per the employment contract should be handed over to the family."
"Similarly, the labour card of the deceased will be cancelled once the death certificate - duly attested by both the embassy of the country where the person died as well as the Ministry of Foreign Affairs - is presented.
Alternatively, the labour card will be automatically cancelled after six months as per labour laws," Khouri was quoted by 'Al Khaleej' newspaper.
Answering a labour transfer query, Khouri said employees can be transferred to another facility, if the company they were working for is closed. But in such cases, the ministry should be notified of the closure of the company within two months. Following which, the Inspection Department will study the complaint and, if need be, punishment procedures would be initiated against the owner.