Malawi sees surge in demand for passports

The demand for a Malawian passport increased between 2011 and 2012 with the Immigration Department issuing over 200, 000 travel documents despite facing a shortage of passport booklets as well as the economic hardships that characterized the period.

Immigration Deputy Public Relations Officer (PRO), Martin Gongolo said in an interview most of the passports were issued to Malawian natives seeking to travel for studies and employment overseas.

Despite issuing more passports, the department’s spokesperson admits that there is still a backlog of unprocessed applications.

“The booklets shortage affected our operations including the issuance of passports and this has created a backlog of unprocessed applications.

Passport seekers at Immigration Department
Passport seekers at Immigration Department

“Apart from the booklet challenge, the economic hardships the country faced forced more people especially the youth to apply for a passport, most of whom had interests to further their studies as well as a job hunt,” said the Deputy Public Relations Officer whose department issues over 3,500 passports monthly.

Asked on claims that the issuance of passports at the department is faced by lots of abuse that sometimes see foreign nationals acquiring the travel document, Gongolo described the current system as ‘watertight.’

“Abusers are mostly caught even before they pay for the document a thing that makes the system watertight,” defended Gongolo adding, “it cannot be manipulated in anyway.”

Responding to queries that the system is being abused at District Commissioners (DCs) offices who were given the responsibility to certify application forms, the immigration PRO said the district fathers were provided with seals that provide security to their certification.

He said the department recently provided the DCs with dry seals to improve their efficiency adding that the national registration currently under phase two is expected to improve further passport security.

The publicist further said since the department categorized the issuance of the passports, most people apply for the normal passport which under normal circumstances, is issued within 21 days.

“We issue express passports that are given within 48 hours, urgent ones issued within five days and the normal passports that are the most applied for and are issued within 21 days,” said Gongolo.

Meanwhile, Malawians are yet to take over the operations of the digital passport production machine which is still being run by contractors following an agreement between the government of Malawi and the suppliers.

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