A senior pilot with Jet Airways has written to the Ministry of External Affairs and Ministry of Civil Aviation, bringing to their notice that Saudi Arabian officials confiscate the original passports of airline crew and leave them with only photocopies that are not considered valid proofs of identity, The Times of India reported on Monday.
“A passport is a citizen’s personal proof of identity and nationality when in foreign land, without which a persons status instantaneously declines to that of a refugee,” Captain Ravi Chander Rajan wrote in his letter dated June 1. “Saudi Arabia cannot be allowed to treat its visitors with such disdain. We enter their airspace and country only at their request and permission.”
News of his letter came amid reports that on July 26, the Saudi Arabian Police had detained four Air India crew members in Jeddah after they failed to produce their original passports. The airline staff had only photocopies of the travel permits as they had been asked to deposit their passports at the immigration office.
“This practice is not recognised by Saudi Arabia’s own laws, and it is in direct violation of human rights,” the Jet Airways pilot’s letter to the ministries read. “In fact, a member of the National Society of Human Rights has clarified as early as of 2011 that Saudi laws allow a non-Saudi to keep his or her passport, and that the passport belongs only to its holder.”
Captain Rajan called for “swift necessary steps” to resolve the matter to ensure that no citizen is faced with such an ordeal. “We are ready to correspond and cooperate with your office in any matter that is reasonably possible from our side,” the letter added.
The Saudi Arabian Police had stopped the Air India staff while they were returning to their hotel after dinner in Jeddah. They did not accept the photocopies of their passports or their Air India IDs as valid permits. They were released from the police station after staff from the hotel where they were staying explained the situation to officers.
Corrections and clarifications: An earlier version of the story erroneously said that an Air India pilot had written to the government, instead of a Jet Airways pilot.