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Mitchell blames Passport Office woes on poor management

Former Minister of Immigration and Foreign Affairs Fred Mitchell attributed the current challenging application process at the Passport Office to poor management.

Bahamians seeking to renew their e-passports are finding it much more difficult as they now have to provide certain documents that are proving to be onerous for some.

Chief Passport Officer Siobhan Dean said that this is in part due to the inconsistencies in the information on the documents individuals are bringing in, as well as the lack of due diligence done with the e-passport system when it was initially launched in 2007.

But Mitchell said, “These in my view are management issues and ultimately they can be resolved by proper management of the system.”

Mitchell said he understands the frustration of those applicants because he too had to go through the difficult process.

He said when he served as foreign affairs minister and had to apply for a diplomatic passport, “they told me that the machinery that was bought in the first generation of electronic passports did not retain the information in connection with my file, so therefore I had to start afresh with everything. So that was the explanation there”.

Reportedly, Bahamians are being asked to bring in birth certificates of parents and grandparents in some instances. Some are also being asked to redo affidavits because the ones they brought in initially were filled out incorrectly by a justice of the peace.

Dean explained last week, “We are asking persons if you have an affidavit to have it recorded at the Registrar General’s Department.

“If you don’t have a birth certificate and you are using an affidavit, we cannot accept it. An affidavit cannot stand alone. There must be something to substantiate it.

“That’s why we are asking persons to get a hospital letter. In the event you are unable to find a hospital letter, we say get a baptismal certificate or something that will substantiate your birth or give the affidavit some value.”

Mitchell further explained how complicated it can be proving citizenship based on Bahamian laws.

“When you’re getting a new electronic passport they have to have all the documents fresh because the record keeping wasn’t what it was supposed to be the first time around. So that’s number one,” he said.

“Secondly though, the problem in going back to your grandparents has to do with the law of The Bahamas and the constitution, because depending on whether you are born within a marriage or not within a marriage, your citizenship may be affected by that fact.

“And it is also affected by whether you were born before independence or after independence, so they have to trace as far back as your grandparents in order to be sure you were properly a Bahamian citizen after independence. 

“So unfortunately that’s the way it is. It’s quite complicated, particularly since birth records in this country are not very good.

“It surprised me as minister how many people did not have birth certificates and were relying on affidavits, so that’s something we have to correct going forward.

“And of course I can understand why people are annoyed.”

Staff Reporter at The Nassau Guardian
Sloan covers national news for The Nassau Guardian. Sloan officially joined the news team in September 2016 but interned at The Nassau Guardian while studying journalism at the University of The Bahamas.
Education: Vrije Universiteit Brussel (University of Brussels), MA in Mass Communications
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