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Ugandans cry foul over biometric passport issuance delays

Zimbabwe system shows improvement
Ugandans cry foul over biometric passport issuance delays

There is an increasing backlog of applications for biometric passports in Uganda and applicants are expressing frustration over the inability to have the travel documents delivered to them in time by Ugandan authorities, according to an article by The Monitor.

The report paints a gloomy picture of the situation as many travelers say they are exasperated and have lost or are on the verge of losing very important travel appointments.

Applicants say they are surprised that the wait time for the travel document is instead proving to be longer at a time when the Ugandan government has migrated passports from the machine-readable format to biometric ones.

The report quotes a passport applicant Anwar Kakande who narrates that he is on the brink of losing a well-paying job in South Africa because he cannot travel as planned. Not sure to travel in June as he expects, he says he has told his would-be employers to already consider a Plan B.

Another passport applicant who spoke to The Monitor explains the ordeal with her passport renewal process, saying she spent well over 700,000 Ugandan Shillings (about US$195) in transport costs and eventually lost her job because she was forced to abandon work and queue up to get her passport delivered.

Some of the applicants interviewed claim immigrations officials sometimes delay the issuance process intentionally, especially at the later stages, so as to squeeze money out of desperate citizens.

The purpose of the story, The Monitor says it reached out to the country’s Commissioner of Citizenship and Passport Control Brig. Johnson Namanya Abaho, who instead referred its reporters to the Internal Affairs Ministry spokesperson Peter Mundeyi.

Contacted, Mundeyi rejected the accusations from applicants and said they are plans to open a customer call center to respond to queries.

The government also launched an online passport application system in late-2020, which a government official says enables the issuance of 1,000 to 1,200 passports each day.

The government of Uganda said recently that it is planning to begin the production of biometric passports and other ID documents locally to cut cost.

Biometrics keep out fraudsters from Zimbabwe passport delivery chain

In Zimbabwe, ‘middlemen’ and other fraudsters who used to make quick cash from passport applicants are already losing their ‘fortunes’ with the introduction of biometrics in the delivery of the travel document, Chronicle reports.

Previously, the middlemen colluded with officials in the Civil Registry Department in Bulawayo to extort money from passport applicants, benefiting from the chaos triggered by long queues and other procedural delays. Bribes were demanded openly in some cases and the amounts ranged from $20 to $30, the report states.

Today, things have practically changed as the middlemen have not only lost their place, the issuance process has also been expedited. Applicants say although there are still queues, the processing speed is much faster than before.

Chronicle quotes a user, Nothando Dube, as saying with the new passport system, they no longer stay long in queues and also see no need to resort to middlemen. Some users expressed gratitude to the government in Harare for introducing the new generation passports.

The outlet says it spoke to some of the middlemen who admitted that their line of business has been killed with the coming of the biometric passports.

Zimbabwe’s biometric passport issuance began in March.

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