22,000 passports uncollected

…But applicants allege deals in processing

A recent stampede of applicants at the entrance of the passport office at ridge in Accra (1) ABOUT 22,000 processed passports have been left uncollected at the various passport offices throughout the country.

The Director of Passport, Mr. Alexander Grant Ntrakwa, who disclosed this to The Ghanaian Times in Accra, said the booklets were printed as and when requested, but regretted that in spite of the urgency attached to printing the documents, the owners had failed to collect them.

He said 2000, passports were printed daily, noting that with the introduction of the new machines, 12,000 passports could be produced in less than two weeks.

Mr. Ntrakwa said people whose passports had not expired, had been rushing to acquire the new biometric passports and that had resulted in the overcrowding at the passport offices.

He said, “there is no need for people to rush to acquire passports”, explaining that if prospective applicants would allow the system to work, there would be no need for them to queue for the booklet since they would be called.

Explaining the procedures, he said applicants would be given time for their biometric data after submitting their completed forms, but regrettably, some of them thronged the area when their passports were not ready.

He advised prospective applicants to report at the offices where they submitted their forms to collect their passports, instead of rushing to the Ridge office.

The director said apart from the normal processing, his outfit also engaged in express and diplomatic processing, including emergency cases such as people travelling for medical attention, students attending interviews to pursue courses outside the country, as well as those whose their flights had been cancelled by the airlines due to the expiration of their passports, and were not permitted to fly.

He explained that per international standard, travellers who had six months left for their passports to expire would not be permitted to fly, adding that in such instances, his outfit would expedite action on their requests.

He blamed the overcrowding at their offices on the activities of middlemen, popularly called ‘goro’ boys, who had been collecting various sums of money from applicants and consequently asking them to go to the passport offices for their booklets.

For instance, he said, his outfit learnt that some middlemen collected as much as GH¢1,000 and above from applicants under the pretext of facilitating the processing of their documents for them.

He wondered how people could entrust their future in the hands of the middlemen, noting that if the passport form costs GH¢ 50 or GH¢100, how could people afford to give the so-called middlemen 10 times or more for the processing of their passports.

Mr. Ntrakwa said security had been beefed up at the various passport offices in order to clamp down on the activities of middlemen.

He said apart from uniformed and plain-clothed police personnel, there were a number of personnel from the military, National Security, the Bureau of National Investigations, Immigration, Fire service and other security agencies in the area to maintain law and order.

He said some of the middlemen had been arrested and handed over to the Criminal Investigations Department (CID) of the Ghana Police Service for prosecution and appealed to the public to go through the right procedures for their passports and stop relying on middlemen.

Speaking to The Ghanaian Times, some applicants expressed concern about the delay in acquiring their passports and called for the creation of more offices to ease the pressure on the two offices in Accra.

Some also complained that even though they reported at the various offices early to either submit their documents or to have their biometric data captured, they were delayed in long queues, sometimes for hours, with people using the excuse of protocol to jump queues as emergencies.

Meanwhile, a middleman claimed he could help facilitate the acquisition of passport for this reporter when he feigned interest to acquire one. He charged GH¢1, 500 which, he said, was on the lower side, claiming that some people pay between GH¢2,000 and GH¢5,000 depending on the urgency of their requests.

By Francis Asamoah Tuffour 

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