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Ms Shirley Ayorkor Botchwey
Ms Shirley Ayorkor Botchwey

Ministry to introduce 48-page passports for frequent travellers

The Ministry of Foreign Affairs and Regional Integration has started discussions aimed at introducing chip-embedded passports to keep up the pace of technological advancement and enhance the security of Ghanaian passports, the Minister of Foreign Affairs and Regional Integration, Ms Shirley Ayorkor Botchwey has said.


Additionally, she said there were plans to introduce 48-page passports to satisfy the needs of frequent travellers before the end of this year.

The Head Office of the Passport Office will soon be relocated to make way for the construction of the National Cathedral, she noted, adding that a new property had been allocated to the Ministry to be used as the new Passport Head Office.


Ms Botchwey said these when she took her turn at the Meet-the-Press series at the conference hall of the Ministry of Information in Accra on Tuesday.


Passport acquisition

The Minister stated that over the past two years, the Ministry had embarked on a number of initiatives to facilitate the process of passport acquisition for Ghanaians and mentioned the initiatives as including the online passport application and downloadable Portable Document Format (PDF) Passport Application Forms.


She mentioned the others as the extension of Passport Applications Centers (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, Ghana Immigration Service and other Security Services, all of which have representatives stationed in the respective PACs across the country.


World Bank


The Minister announced that the Passport Office has been selected by the World Bank as one of the key public service agencies to receive support to procure necessary logistics such as additional printers, cameras, scanners, fingerprint scanners, signature pads, servers, furniture and computers among other things to enhance service delivery.

She expressed optimism, that by the time we successfully concluded the implementation of the World Bank project and other initiatives, Ghanaians will be enjoying stress-free and efficient passport service delivery both at home and abroad.


Also, she said seven Ghana Missions abroad, namely, Berlin, London, New York, Washington, Pretoria, Abuja and Tokyo, process and issue biometric passports to our compatriots in the Diaspora.


She said in order to minimise the bottlenecks associated with the acquisition of biometric passports, some Missions have adopted the mobile enrollment 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, as well as Addis Ababa, Rabat and Dakar in Africa; Brasilia in South America as well as Canberra in the pacific, for the extension of biometric passport service.


Consular assistance


She said consular assistance was also provided to several Ghanaians stranded in foreign countries.

This included the assistance in the repatriation of thirty-one (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 pose a challenge and undue pressure on the Ministry’s finances.


Welfare cases


In line with fulfilling 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.


Diplomatic activities


Since the current government of the New Patriotic Party (NPP) assumed office in January 2017, the Foreign Affairs Ministry has witnessed exceptionally intense levels of diplomatic activity covering a wide range of bilateral and multilateral issues, the Minister observed.

In the process, she said Ghana’s image had soared as evidenced by the exchange of numerous high-level visits; appreciable inflows of foreign direct investments; the leadership role accorded the President in the promotion of gender and the Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs) as well as the mediation in the Togolese crisis.


The decision by the leadership of the African Union (AU) to choose Ghana as the host country of the African Continental Free Trade Area (AFCFTA) is a powerful demonstration of the immense respect and goodwill Ghana enjoys in the international community, she added.


Source: Graphic.com


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