The Minister of Foreign Affairs and Regional Integration, Ms Shirley Ayorkor Botchwey, has disclosed that the ministry had begun discussions aimed at introducing chip-embedded passports to keep up the pace of technological advancement and enhance the security of the Ghanaian passport.
Ms Botchway made the revelation at the Meet-the-Press encounter in Accra last Tuesday. She said there were also plans to introduce 48-page passports before the end of this year to satisfy the needs of frequent travellers.
The head office of the Passport Office, she said, would also be relocated to make way for the construction of the National Cathedral, adding that a new property had been allocated to the ministry for a new passport office.
The minister stated that the ministry had over the last two years embarked on a number of initiatives to facilitate the process of passport acquisition for Ghanaians and mentioned some of the initiatives as the online passport application and downloadable Portable Document Format (PDF) passport application forms.
Other such initiatives she said, were the extension of passport applications centres (PACs) to eight regional capitals; the establishment of the Premium Passport Application Centre; overhauling of passport processing equipment; extension of the validity of passports from five years to 10 years among others.
“I believe most applicants will now attest to the improvement in the passport service delivery,” she stressed, and said even though we were not there yet, we were making impressive progress.
In carrying out its mandate as outlined in the Passports and Travel Certificate Act 1967 (N.L.C.D. 155), she said the ministry continued to work in collaboration with other relevant ministries, departments and agencies (MDAs), such as the Births and Deaths Registry, the Controller and Accountant General’s Department, the Ghana Immigration Service and other security services, all of which had representatives stationed in the respective PACs across the country.
The minister announced that the Passport Office had been selected by the World Bank as one of the key public service agencies to receive support to procure necessary logistics such as printers, cameras, scanners, fingerprint scanners, signature pads, servers, furniture and computers to enhance service delivery.
She expressed optimism that by the time the country concluded implementation of the World Bank project and other initiatives, Ghanaians would be enjoying stress-free and efficient passport service delivery, both at home and abroad.
Also, she said, seven of Ghana’s missions abroad, namely Berlin, London, New York, Washington, Pretoria, Abuja and Tokyo, processed and issued biometric passports to compatriots in the Diaspora.
She said in order to minimise the bottlenecks associated with the acquisition of biometric passports, some missions had adopted the mobile enrolment of passport applicants in the course of the year.
The ministry had also earmarked The Hague, Moscow, Paris, Oslo and Brussels in Europe; Beijing and Riyadh in Asia and the Middle East respectively; Addis Ababa, Rabat and Dakar in Africa; Brasilia in South America and Canberra in the Pacific, for the extension of biometric passport service.
She said consular assistance was also provided to several Ghanaians who were stranded in foreign countries.
This included the assistance in the repatriation of 31 stranded Ghanaian soccer fans who travelled to watch the 2018 FIFA World Cup Tournament held in the Russian Federation. The ministry also covered the cost of the repatriation of the remains of some deceased Ghanaians abroad.
The ministry undertakes this mandate within the constraints of very limited resources which sometimes poses a challenge and puts undue pressure on the Ministry’s finances.
In line with its mandate of providing consular assistance and promoting the welfare of Ghanaians both at home and abroad, the minister said the Ministry, in 2018, received 5,200 welfare-related issues from its missions abroad.
Out of the number, she said 4,797 cases were resolved.