Acquiring Ghanaian passports has been of concern to many a Ghanaian because of the challenges citizens have to go through before obtaining what in other jurisdictions are acquired as a matter of course.
It is no secret that most people have had to rely on “passport contractors” to obtain passports, even though the processes, as laid down by the Ministry of Foreign Affairs, are very simple and straightforward.
These ‘passport contractors’ have illegally raked in thousands of Ghana cedis from applicants, from whom they “extort” huge sums of money, and, in collaboration with some corrupt officials at the Passport Office, trade in the issuing of Ghanaian passports, sometimes to non-Ghanaians.
It must be stated that the process of acquiring a Ghanaian passport has eased considerably from the time when the main Passport Application Centre (PAC) in Accra was besieged by hundreds of applicants to now when there is some form of order following the introduction of some measures by the issuing authority.
In spite of the progress made so far, there appears to be a number of bottlenecks that the Daily Graphic thinks must be streamlined to make it easier for applicants to receive their passports without any let or hindrance.
Since the introduction of Ghanaian biometric passports, in line with international best practice, a number of steps have been outlined for the smooth acquisition of passports.
The process begins with the purchase of a passport application form from an approved point of sale which, after being duly completed, is submitted, along with the relevant documents, to a PAC.
On submission, the applicant is made to take a digital photograph and make biometric data fingerprints, upon which he or she receives a submission receipt, along with passport collection date from a PAC, a number of which have been set up around the country.
All these processes are expected to take about three working days (for express service) at GH¢100 [US$70] and 15 working days (for regular service) at GH¢50 [US$35], but very few applicants can attest to the fact that they have paid only those amounts and waited for the stipulated periods to get their passports issued.
During an unannounced visit by the Foreign Affairs Minister, Ms Shirley Ayorkor Botchway, to the Accra PAC, some challenges at the centre came to light.
From irregularities in the procedure to submit forms to the collection of completed passports, the situation is not pleasant for passport applicants and there is the need to streamline the situation.
The situation has not been helped by the introduction of online applications, a measure that was expected to ease passport acquisition.
Many applicants have complained about the difficulty involved in uploading their photos during online applications, which compels them to go physically to the PAC, where they have to be “helped” to upload their photos at a cost.
We call on the Ministry of Foreign Affairs and Regional Integration, specifically its agency, the Passport Office, to take steps to streamline the online application process to avoid a situation where we will slip back into the chaos associated with the past.
Again, the issue of who is entitled to a Ghanaian passport is of grave concern.
Ghanaian passports are supposed to be issued exclusively to persons who have Ghanaian citizenship, in accordance with the Ghanaian nationality law.
It is no secret, however, that many foreigners, especially those from neighbouring West African countries, are able to acquire Ghanaian passports with ease.
For this reason, we commend the Passport Office for the steps it has so far taken to weed out foreign applicants and urge the government to speed up the provision of the national identity cards, since they have the potential to ensure that only qualified Ghanaians are issued with our national passports.