Ranking Member of the Committee on Foreign Affairs and MP for North Tongu, Samuel Okudzeto Ablakwa, is urging Parliament to intervene in ending the maltreatment that are meted out to Ghanaian visa applicants by the various embassies in the country.
He wants the legislature to play a frontline role in bringing offending embassies to order, noting that Consular courtesies must be fair to all persons and on both sides.
Delivering a statement on the floor of Parliament, Wednesday, on how Ghanaian visa applicants are treated by some embassies in the country, the North Tongu lawmaker said he has taken the pain to visit a number of embassies during their interview appointment periods and what he observed needs much to be desired.
The shabby and dehumanizing treatment many Ghanaian visa applicants are subjected to as well as issues of extortion, he noted, are very rampant in the embassies he visited.
“Mr. Speaker, 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. 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 it’s raining or even if there is a category five hurricane – they simply don’t seem to care,” he noted.
Apart from the inhumane treatment meted out to Ghanaians, Mr. Ablakwa also raised issues bothering on huge non-refundable sums for the visa services the embassies seek, poor reception, disparaging remarks as well as poor human relations and outright insults, which he said, are becoming rife.
“What is even more worrying is the fact that often some of the embassy staff who treat Ghanaian visa applicants with such disdain are fellow Ghanaians. 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. These 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 stated.
He added “Mr. Speaker, the time has come for all of us to accept that visa applicants from every nation on this planet have rights. Visa applicants deserve respect. Visa applicants do not lose their basic human dignity because they have applied for a visa. These principles must apply whether the visa request will be granted or not.”
Worried about the ordeal Ghanaian visa applicants go through, Mr. Ablakwa said it was about time Parliament steps in and fights for the citizenry.
“Mr. Speaker, I believe now is the time to demand action as the people’s representatives. 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. It is my fervent prayer that this House will consider all available options at our disposal to seek reforms in how these embassies treat our citizens,” he noted.