My concern for Visa applicants is not to create diplomatic tension-Hon. Ablakwa
Member of Parliament for the North Tongu Constituency who is a Ranking Member of the Committee on Foreign Affairs, Hon. Samuel Okudzeto Ablakwa has bemoaned treatments meted out to Ghanaian visa applicants by some embassies in Ghana, though avoided mentioning specific embassies in other not to create a diplomatic tension.
According to him, the shabby and dehumanizing treatment many Ghanaian visa applicants are subjected to virtually on a daily basis, has however become a blot that threatens to affect the good relations Ghana enjoys with some of these nations with diplomatic missions in Ghana.
On the floor of Parliament on Wednesday October 25, 2017, Hon. Ablakwa raised this concern for Parliament to consider all available options to seek reforms in how these embassies treat the ordinary citizens.
“It is indeed sad to observe that most of these embassies in question have made no provision whatsoever for a decent and safe waiting area where visa applicants may be hosted as they wait their turn during visa interview appointments”
“Mr. Speaker, I have personally made the effort to visit a number of embassies during their interview appointment periods and what I have observed leaves me rather outraged. You find fellow Ghanaians standing in open places; some left to wait at street shoulders and roundabouts with no one caring about the associated risk posed by motorists, others are left at the mercy of the vagaries of the weather. To these embassies, they couldn’t be bothered if the sun is scorching, if its raining or even if there is a category five hurricane; they simply don’t seem to care”. He stated.
Records of Parliament shows that, this Honourable Member, some four years ago had an opportunity to raise this issue during the vetting of the former Minister for Foreign Affairs, Hon. Hanna Serwaa Tetteh, yet this unfortunate and unacceptable treatment meted out to Ghanaians has continued unabated over the years.
According to this Ranking Member, the reception Ghanaians receive at the hands of staff of these embassies, especially disparaging remarks, poor human relations and outright insults are obviously becoming rife.
“Mr. Speaker, to the extent that thousands and thousands of Ghanaians continue to pay non-refundable sums for the visa services they seek – which are no small amounts by the way, one wonders why a fraction of the revenue generated by these embassies cannot be used to make basic provision of a waiting area for their visa clients”. Hon. Ablakwa observed.
What is even more worrying, He said, is the fact that often some of the embassy staff who treat Ghanaian visa applicants with such disdain are fellow Ghanaians.
“Mr. Speaker, a new trend is also emerging where some embassies apart from their standard visa processing fees, demand all kinds of extra fees and charges under various guises. The guises range from express fees, early appointment fees, email fees, text message fees and so on and so forth. The sad reality is that in many instances, despite the fact that applicants pay through the nose, the embassies who charge all these extra fees do not keep to their side of the bargain while these vulnerable visa applicants are made to keep paying for the inefficiency and unreliability of the embassies”. He reiterated.
“The visa applicants who are being battered and disrespected are the very same people who pay all fees and charges demanded. They are the very same people who pay for their own flight tickets and fill the international airlines that leave Kotoka Airport every night. The very same people who pay for their own hotel bills when they have arrived at their destinations and they are the very same people who indulge in other expenditures all of which must be quite beneficial to the local economies of these countries”
Hon. Okudzeto Ablakwat is therefore calling on both Speaker and the leadership of Parliament to join forces by demanding action as the people’s representatives to be able to curb this outmoded treatment meted out to Ghanaian visa applicants by these foreign missions in Ghana.
“The people whom we represent demand a change of attitude and a change in how visa applicants are treated and perceived by officials at these embassies. Consular courtesies must be fair to all persons and on both sides”. He added.
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