The Philippine Consulate is urging maids to boycott finance companies and banks which take passports as security for loans. The warning comes after complaints against loan providers who refuse to return passports to domestic helpers who have to make emergency trips home. Vice-consul Raul Hernandez said: 'We are asking our nationals here not to patronise agencies which take passports as collateral.' They should also avoid companies 'whose collection agencies are cruel in collecting outstanding payments', he said. Passports belonged to the Government and should not be used to obtain loans. The practice caused problems when workers needed to renew visas or return home urgently, said United Filipinos in Hong Kong chairwoman Connie Bragas-Regalado. Financiers would arrange for staff with the passports to accompany borrowers to the Immigration Department, she said. A service fee was often charged. Some debt collectors caused problems for domestic workers by talking to their employers which often led to them being sacked, she said. A meeting was held last month between consulate officials, finance companies, banks and worker groups. One of the largest providers of finance to Filipino workers, JCG, said it accepted passports only for loans of more than $15,000. However, Chinese customers did not have to lodge their passports for security. 'The Chinese, they are different. We consider them as resident in Hong Kong, so the chance of them travelling outside is not as great,' deputy general manager Lee Huat-on said. Those who lodged passports were able to use them to return home 'provided they show us the proof they are returning', such as a return ticket. Mr Lee said they were needed because Filipinos were in Hong Kong on employment contracts which could be terminated. He said the company adhered to Hong Kong Monetary Authority guidelines. Money lenders are prohibited from taking custody of passports for loans, but the restriction does not apply to financial institutions.