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Security detains 17 in crackdown on passport brokering

Ministry of internal affairs spokesperson Peter Mundeyi addressing the media. URN photo

Kampala, Uganda | THE INDEPENDENT | After a long outcry by dozens of people who have been fleeced of their money in passport application processes, police and the ministry of internal affairs have arrested 17 suspected conmen disguised as the institution’s workers.

The arrest has been effected by covert crime intelligence officers deployed outside the ministry’s premises, nearby fuel stations and eateries where the suspects were found charging desperate passport applicants money ranging from 500,000 Shillings to 2 million Shillings.

Simon Peter Mundeyi, the spokesperson for the ministry of internal affairs, says some of the suspects have been conning applicants with promises of securing early appointments and in some instances, they have been promising to get them passports in less than five days.

Ever since the Directorate of Citizenship and Immigration Control (DCIC) outlawed the Machine Readable Passport (MRP) on April 4th this year, replacing them with electronic passports (e-Passport), it created a backlog in applicants numbers.

As a result, the applicants could be given appointment dates which were ranging from six to eight weeks yet many people had travel schedules coming in a week’s time or less than a month. Mundeyi explains that last-minute application for passports landed hundreds in the hands of brokers who have fleeced them of money yet there was no way they could penetrate the system.

Mundeyi cites an example of a girl who was last week conned 1.5 million Shillings by brokers who promised to get her a passport. Although Mundeyi has not revealed the number of cases filed by people who have been cheated by brokers, it is reported that Jinja road police division and Wampewo police post have dozens of such cases.

Ronnie Mukundane of the Uganda Association for External Recruitment Agencies (UAERA) says cracking down on brokers was long overdue. Mukundane says passport brokering can be fought if all regional offices are made fully functional thus people will have no reason for clogging the headquarters.

By press time, 17 passport brokers were being detained at Jinja road police division as the hunt for others was ongoing. Mundeyi says people need to be careful of conmen who pull them to nearby fuel stations or inside meat packers promising to quicken the application process. The public has been reminded that all applications are done online.

Mundeyi adds that people who applied online over a month ago and have not got their passports need to visit the collection centre in Kyambogo. DCIC explains that many people put wrong telephone numbers in the online application system that is why messages calling them to pick their travel documents keep bouncing or go to wrong people.

DCIC says it is currently stuck with over 30,000 uncollected passports which will be destroyed after one-year period. In May, DCIC was stuck with 10,000 passports but have since increased by over 20,000 more.



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