Passport delays cause protest in Kenya

Frustrations over delays in the issuance of passports boiled over yesterday as hundreds of applicants threatened to cause chaos.

Security around Nyayo House, Nairobi remained heightened for the better part of yesterday after angry applicants caused a commotion at the Immigration Service offices over delay in the processing of their passports.

Anti-Riot Police armed to the tooth were vigil as applicants trooped the offices, hoping to acquire the travel document that is proving hard to get, five months after Interior Cabinet Secretary Kithure Kindiki stormed the premises and promised to end their agony.

New applicants and those renewing their passports are facing the same predicament as most of the passports are stuck in the approval stage, some for more than one year now.

Many would-be travelers are now staring at missed jobs, education opportunities and expired medical appointments as backlog of passport applications continue to pile.

Jane Njeri who applied for her two-year-old daughter in January 2023 hoping to relocate abroad where she had secured a job expressed her frustrations after making various trips to the Nyayo House offices only to be met with empty promises.

“Why are they punishing us? I have made countless trips to this office yet I am always being told it is at the approval stage. The government should close these offices if they can’t render services to the public,” Njeri said as she walked away in protest.

She said Immigration officials advised her that if she wanted her case to be treated as an emergency, she furnishes them with a letter confirming the same.

Njeri who was accompanied by he toddler was among the applicants who braved long queues outside the application hall that remained at a standstill for hours before their turn to access the offices inside was reached.

Tedious process

Another applicant, Geoffrey Onyango, narrated how the tedious process of acquiring passport is becoming a nightmare for her mother who is scheduled for surgery at an Indian hospital in mid-March.

He said he had already furnished the Immigration department with a letter, indicating why they needed the passport. However, three weeks down the line, they are yet to be issued with the document.

Onyango said his family is considering requesting the hospital to defer the surgery to the end of April to give him time to convince the Immigration team why he urgently requires the passport.

“We are worried because if the surgery is not done in time, my mother’s health will continue to deteriorate. I have talked to her doctor who has recommended expensive medication until the operation is conducted. We are in a very tight spot because of this passport issue,” Onyango said.

The trend has been persistent, and tents erected outside can barely accommodate the surging numbers of people making their way into the Department.

An Immigration official who spoke on condition of anonymity tipped People Daily that the problems deepening applicants’ woes are far beyond the corrupt cartel Kindiki vowed to crash.

The official said the department has been experiencing shortage in the supply of booklets from as far as 2021 and even frequent breakdowns of printing machines, creating a backlog in the production of passports.

“We are helpless. Right now members of the public whose passports are still in the system are on our necks. The backlog stretches back to February last year.

“Most of the passports are stuck at the approval stage in the production system, meaning they are yet to reach the printing stage, not because they are not approved, but the cue at the printing stage is overwhelming,” he said.

The source further revealed that the booklets are supplied in batches but are hardly enough to clear the pile-up. He explained that the 66-page booklets have been out of stock since 2021.

He said applicants with urgent medical cases are given priority, adding that the 34-page lot is always in high demand. Those who can afford are advised to apply for 50 paged passport booklet though at a higher cost.

Immigration and Citizen Services Principal Secretary Julius Bitok told a National Assembly Committee last year that the delay in the processing of passports was occasioned by pending bills owed to a Pakistani company that has been supplying passport booklets to Kenya and another company that provides Automated Finger Identification System.

Source: People Daily Kenya

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