The Speaker of Parliament, Prof Aaron Mike Oquaye has directed Parliament’s Committee on Foreign Affairs to collaborate with his office to enquire into the shabby treatment meted out to visa applicants by some Embassies in Ghana.
According to the Speaker, the two groups after their enquiry should present a report to the House.
Prof Oquaye gave the directive following a statement by Mr Samuel Okudzeto Ablakwa, Ranking Member, Committee on Foreign Affairs, on the floor of the House.
Prof Oquaye also stated that Parliament would not abandon its inquisitorial role of enquiring into matters that touch, concern and affect Ghanaians.
Mr Ablakwa in his presentation had raised concerns about the shabby and dehumanising treatment many Ghanaian Visa applicants are subjected to virtually on a daily basis.
He said many Visa applicants also consider the conduct on the part of some of these embassies to be extortionist.
He said most of these embassies in question have made no provision for a decent and safe waiting area where visa applicants may be hosted as they wait their turn during visa interview appointments.
Mr Ablakwa also stated that he personally visited a number of embassies during their interview appointment periods and was appalled by what he saw.
“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” he added.
He bemoaned the situation where thousands of Ghanaians continue to pay huge sums of non-refundable fees for the visa services they seek. He wondered 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.
Mr Ablakwa also noted that the reception Ghanaian visa applicants receive at the hands of staff of these embassies include reports of disparaging remarks, poor human relations and outright insults.
He explained that a new trend is emerging from some of these embassies where 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, emails fees, text message fees among others.
He said despite the fact that applicants pay these hard cash, the embassies, who charge all these extra fees, do not keep their side of the bargain while these vulnerable visa applicants are made to keep paying for the inefficiency and unreliability of the embassies.
Mr Ablakwa therefore urged the various foreign missions in Ghana to treat Ghanaian visa applications with respect and dignity.
“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” he said.
Mr Frank Annor Dompreh, Chairman of Parliament’s Committee on Foreign Affairs in his contribution called on the foreign missions to streamline their visa application process by being transparent.
Mr Haruna Iddrisu, Minority Leader in his contribution called on the foreign missions to simplify their visa requirements and treat applicants with honour and dignity.
He said some of the visa fees from these foreign embassies even raises concern that must be dealt with.