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Passport chaos - we are trying to sort it

Outside the Passport Office. Photo: Terrel W. Carey Sr/Tribune Staff

Outside the Passport Office. Photo: Terrel W. Carey Sr/Tribune Staff

By MORGAN ADDERLEY

Tribune Staff Reporter

madderley@tribunemedia.net

FOREIGN Affairs Minister Darren Henfield said his ministry has created an internal committee tasked with improving procedures at the Passport Office, as applicants seeking new travel documents this week described the process as “frustrating” and “backwards”.

Complaints of long lines and disorganisation have long plagued the Passport Office.

When asked about these matters yesterday, Mr Henfield acknowledged these are “ongoing issues” but told The Tribune the problems are being looked at “very assiduously”. 

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Desiree Cartwright, one of many concerned customers at the passport office. Photo: Terrel W Carey Sr/Tribune staff

“The space in the Passport Office is much too small for the crowds that we try to entertain there on a daily basis,” Mr Henfield said. 

“So we have space issues, we’re looking at the staffing issues. Hopefully we’re going to be able to renew some applications online very shortly. That will alleviate some of the stress from the Passport Office. 

“But these are ongoing issues that you know come up from time to time. In the summer, they’re magnified when Bahamians wait sometimes too late to come all at once to get their passports renewed.”

When asked about reports there is a quota system at the office and that people are turned away after that, Mr Henfield replied: “My understanding is that the space can only allow for like a hundred a day. That’s my understanding.” 

He added people aren’t necessarily sent away from the premises, telling this reporter that “to put it that way would be unfair”.

“Not sent away - either you can get in or you can’t,” he said.  

When asked if he can promise there will be some relief, Mr Henfield said he could not promise, but noted a committee has been tasked with reviewing these matters. 

“I can make no promises,” he said. “I say we’re looking at it very assiduously. We’ve tasked a committee to look at all things to do with the Passport Office and to see how we can make the experience a little bit more better for Bahamians. 

“It’s an internal committee in my ministry. We have been looking at it for the past two weeks or more. On Monday we had a very serious focus session and we hope to see some results.”

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Foreign Affairs Minister Darren Henfield.

Yesterday The Tribune canvassed the Passport Office, where the line spilled over from inside the building to outside. Some individuals reported waitingtimes of over eight hours and noted they had been required to make multiple trips to the facility due to being sent away on previous days. 

Renique Gibson, 29, told The Tribune yesterday marked her fourth day seeking assistance at the Passport Office. 

When asked about her experiences, she said: “Coming here early in the morning, like three in the morning you’ll come and when you come they’ll serve other people they would say wasn’t served from yesterday. So they would do it the following day, which is the day that we come.

“And I don’t feel it’s fair, because I feel like that situation should be dealt with in a different way. Because we wait from three, now it’s like 11, I’ve been turned around four times.” 

Ms Gibson said applicants are instructed to write their names down in their order of arrival, and they are called in that order. 

“But then when you reach to a certain point, they say they can’t serve no more. Which I don’t think is fair after waiting for so long.

“It could be more organised, they could do things better, they could give you better understanding instead of just pushing you aside because people have children to take care of, they have jobs to go on, so it’s (already) a sacrifice to come and get this. I mean if you’re a Bahamian, I don’t understand what’s the fight.”

Desiree Cartwright, 39, called out the safety risks of people having to be outside the government office at such early hours. 

“I got up at 3.30 yesterday morning, left home at 4am,” Ms Cartwright said. “I reached the Passport Office at 4.30. When I came here I met people here. So my thing is, why is it that you have to come out your bed at 4am, all (this stupidity) happening round these days — people getting rob, people getting rape, and you gotta come out your bed at 4am with ya child to come to get an early number to get a passport.

“You come, no light, dark, pitch-black, no security, no police officer, no defence force officer. That’s ridiculous.”

Comments

Well_mudda_take_sic 5 years, 4 months ago

Remember when Brent Symonette had ministerial responsibility for the Passport Office under the last Ingraham-led FNM government. He did nothing back then to speed things up other than order the rubber stamping of passport applications as if they were meaningless documents. The same went on under the more recent Christie-led PLP government. And Darren Henfield can be expected to do likewise under the Minnis-led government. Small wonder so many illegal aliens find it incredibly easy to obtain a Bahamian passport that they should not have. Yes indeed, whenever very long lines and chaos breakout at the Passport Office, the quick fix rubber stamping solution kicks into high gear. The responsible cabinet minister only wants the political heat off of his back, so to hell with verification of the completeness and authenticity of documents. All it takes to get a Bahamian voter's registration card is a Bahamian passport. LMAO

DDK 5 years, 4 months ago

Not to worry Mudda, this decades-long problem is now going to be dealt with very ASSiduously, LOL!

geostorm 5 years, 4 months ago

Man this is not rocket science! Allow people to fill their applications online and make an appointment. If they are simply renewing, then they do not need to come in for an interview. An arrangement should be made with a courier, similar to the system that the US Embassy uses for passport pickups. If they are first time applicants or children, then they should be made to make an appearance.

Come on Bahamas, why are we so backwards!

Well_mudda_take_sic 5 years, 4 months ago

Because there are so many applicants who can't read and write English, who have a D- education, and who have either no access to an internet connected computer or don't know how to use one, it's all too easy for dishonest and corrupt immigration officials and senior passport office personnel to devise clever schemes whereby a Bahamian passport can be had by just about anyone today for a couple thousand dollars under the table. That Sir, is why we are so backwards. And if you don't believe me, just ask the FBI in the U.S. LMAO

FactCheck 5 years, 4 months ago

You statement is flawed....

These same person who you claim have NO computer and a D-average apply for, and receive USA Visas every month.....

Just make the law and you will see that they will apply for and process their Passports online and then show up for an interview

ohdrap4 5 years, 4 months ago

all over the world, a previous passport is no longer sufficient to get a renewal one.

they now require proof of citizenship, by birth, by naturalization, by descent, by hook, by crook, etc...

and it is likely that new software requires that you resubmit any biometrical data.

even if an online application form went smoothly, you still need to present yourself with the scanned document originals.

tetelestai 5 years, 4 months ago

This is simply not true. Please provide your sources for this falsehood.

FactCheck 5 years, 4 months ago

The building being used is not sufficient in SIZE......nor does it have the appropriate amenities....or restroom facilities to accommodate the number of customers...

TalRussell 5 years, 4 months ago

Oh yes, yes indeed. no reports "frustrating backwards”.delays coming down comrade Darren's Hawkins Hill, over process in place by Imperial reds immigration's issuing thousands work permits, yes, no?

TigerB 5 years, 4 months ago

Bahamain dem like to wait for last minute, Easter round the corner. I already fill in application for my new one which will expire in late September of this year. We love to suffer for lack of planning then we complain. ahahah.

Dawes 5 years, 4 months ago

Literally nothing has changed in 40 years. All the money they have ploughed into this department and they still use paper. Cheaper to make the whole workforce retire and pay that bill and then hire some people who can use a computer then to continue as is.

BONEFISH 5 years, 4 months ago

Foolishness. I spent a whole day attempting to renew my passport.People should not have to suffer for their ineptitude.

Dawes 5 years, 4 months ago

Just reading the World news and in the UK due to Brexit they are telling people with 6 months left to renew their passports. Apparently they think if they apply by today (online) they should be able to get all 3 million done by the end of the month. I know the UK is bigger but this shows efficiency that we will never have.

sheeprunner12 5 years, 4 months ago

How does that help Out Island people????? ...... There is NO facility for us!!!

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