Minister of Foreign Affairs Darren Henfield yesterday decried the ongoing chaos at the Passport Office, calling the situation “intolerable”.
Over the past few weeks, Bahamians have faced long lines, overcrowding and disorganization at the Passport Office.
Although the office does not open until 8:30 a.m., some of them complained that they had been waiting outside from as early as 5 a.m.
“It’s intolerable that Bahamians will have to stand in long lines in the 21st century to simply get a passport,” said Henfield, who has portfolio responsibility for the Passport Office.
“We’re working actively in the industry to resolve and mitigate the situation as it stands now.
“We’re looking potentially at providing another space that will alleviate the burdens currently felt and experienced at the one single standing building that we have to do everything concerning passports.
“Perhaps we will look at a place where you can go and make your applications, and another place where you can go and receive your passports.”
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.
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.
Henfield said, “Are we being onerous and burdensome to Bahamians? Well, that’s a matter of opinion. Each case is seen on a case-by-case basis, and in the circumstances, the individual in the passport office, whoever is processing the application, determines within reason [whether] more verification is required.”
Asked whether he believes record-keeping must be improved, the minister said, “Of course, we have to improve our record-keeping.
“We have to computerize all of our record-keeping, which will make it much easier for a technical person trying to process a passport.”
He also noted that the ministry is currently working on an online system to improve the process.
“I think we’re about less than two weeks away from having something definitive in that regard where Bahamians can be able to go online and renew their passport applications, which will decrease the burden placed on the Passport Office and the small staff and the small environment to produce passports at this rate,” he said.
Education: Virginia in Charlottesville, BA in Foreign Affairs and Spanish
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