The Uganda’s Internal Affairs ministry has attributed the huge numbers of citizens seeking to travel out of the country to globalization and stability in the country and the effects of COVID-19 pandemic.
In a statement issued on Monday, the ministry said the number of Ugandan citizens seeking to travel abroad for tourism, business, conferences, jobs and education has greatly increased and this explains the long queues at the immigration offices.
The long queues that have become a common feature at the ministry headquarters in Kampala are a testimony of the urge in Ugandans to exit the country for various reasons. These however are mainly young women seeking travel documents to Arab countries in search of employment.
“With globalization and stability in the country, the number of Ugandan citizens travelling abroad for tourism, business, conferences, jobs and education has increased rapidly” The statement reads in part.
The ministry attributes the large crowds at the immigration offices to the mandatory requirement for every passport applicant to appear in order to have their metrics captured for passport processing. At any given day, the ministry accommodates more than 4000 people daily, most of whom are seeking passport service.
The growing demand for passports is also attributed to the urge in Ugandans to acquire employment abroad following the loss of jobs as an after-effect of the COVID-19 pandemic. Due to job losses, the ministry says many Ugandans have opted to taking up employment services abroad thereby exerting a lot of pressure on the immigration services; doubling the number of passport applications from 1000 to 2100 passports daily.
The ministry also points to the lockdown due to COVID-19 pandemic which was imposed on the country between March and July 2020, a period they claim led to accumulation of a backlog on the online system because people continued to apply without being served. Even when the restrictions were eased with opening of land borders and airports, the operations of the ministry operated at 30 per cent capacity, owing to the Standard Operation Procedures (SOPs) in the COVID-19 fight.
In effect, the ministry says the COVID-19 pandemic created a hungover for immigration services.
In December 2019, the ministry of Internal Affairs launched online passport application to do away with the long queues and eased the process but the practice has not gone away with people lining up at the offices as early as 3am.
According to the statement, there has been an exponential increase in the number of passports issued ever since government lifted the ban on labour exports in December 2020, from 14,166 passports to 18,894 in April 2021.
The statement says over the years, there has also been a growing demand for passports as well as need to replace old passports with the newly introduced Electronic Passport, a process whose deadline was scheduled to end by January 31, 2021 but later extended to April 2022.
As intervention measures, the MIA says it has decentralized passport enrollment services to regional centers, re-instated full-scale operations at the headquarters, and activated a system of scheduling time for individual applicants.