Passports and supporting documents they submitted mysteriously went missing
The British High Commission in Kampala has said they will assist the 70 Ugandans whose passports got lost on their way from Durban to Entebbe.
The embassy says they will appropriately compensate the people for any fees incurred in replacing lost documents.
Scores of Ugandans who applied for visas at the British visa office in Kampala are sad and blue after passports and supporting documents they submitted mysteriously went missing.
Besides the passports, sources revealed, the lost documents included among others; invitation letters, land titles , insurance documents and financial statements.
The affected persons, who applied through TLScontact, the United Kingdom (UK) visa application centre located on Victoria Courts building in Bukoto, Kampala, have since missed their trips. Unconfirmed reports indicated that over 100 persons were affected.
British High Commissions of recent ceased to directly handle visa matters; they entrusted the role with TLScontact, a London-based firm. TLScontact is a commercial company that works with UK Visas and Immigration (UKVI) to provide services to people applying for visas for the UK, according to its website.
TLScontact advises visa applicants to apply online by visiting the UK website; gov.uk, pay their fees and book an appointment for their visa application centre online, and register.
The Ugandans, whose documents went missing, had wanted to travel to the UK for; business engagements, conferences and studies. Others were going to visit relatives and/or friends.
The loss of passports implies owners will have to acquire new ones. For regular travellers, this may strip them of privileges enjoyed by regular travellers like not being subjected to rigorous interviews while seeking a visa at some embassies as is the practice with first time travellers.
Kigumba Catholic Parish priest, Fr. Andrea Abooki Kaahwa, was one of those whose passport got lost. Kaahwa said he applied for a visa on June 13 and he was promised that he would get it after 15 working days - on June 30. Kaahwa's parish is located in Kiryandongo district within Bunyoro sub-region.
"I was invited together with other fellow Ugandan priests by the Bishops in Scotland for a convention. We were supposed to travel on July 2 and return on July 31. But when I did not get any information about my visa by June 29, I called TLScontact to find out what was going on. They told me to be patient and assured me that my visa was being worked on," he narrated.
Kaahwa said he received a call from an official from the British High Commission on July 8 who inquired about his bio-data and why he was travelling to the UK. "I answered all the questions and they promised to get back when my visa was ready."
On July 19, however, Kaahwa received another phone call that delivered the sad news of the loss of his passport and documents, and the official reportedly apologized.
Whereas the British High Commission promised to pay fees for Kaahwa's new passport, the priest said he was not sure whether they would refund the sh1.8m that he had spent on paying for the visa, health insurance, transport and meals.
"I paid sh1.16m for the visa, sh470,000 for health insurance and the rest of the money went on transport and meals."
Kaahwa said the Bishops in Scotland complained bitterly after all the Ugandan priests failed to honour the invitation, until they wrote to them on July 20, explaining how their documents had gone missing.
"We have missed a lot that we had planned to do with the Bishops in Scotland as part of our collaboration. The next opportunity to go there is next year," Kaahwa stated.
Another affected person who preferred anonymity said he received a call from the British High Commission informing him that his passport had gone missing, before the Commission followed up with a confirmatory e-mail.
"They informed me that my passport was missing, but they were searching for it. They advised me to process another one so that I could travel and they promised to compensate me," said another affected person who was meant to travel to the UK over two weeks ago for a convention.
Sources revealed that over 20 people who were interviewed for visas on the day Kaahwa went for his interviews have all had their passports missing.
New Vision has learnt that some of the affected persons have since registered the loss of their passports with the Directorate of Citizenship and Immigration Control at the Ministry of Internal Affairs. The directorate is charged with the issuance of passports.
The affected persons are by law required to report the loss of their passports to Police. "This can protect them in case criminals land on it and use it," said a Police source.
What Immigration says
The Immigration directorate spokesperson, Jacob Siminyu, said one of the affected persons had reported to them, adding, "but once someone has lost their passport, the procedure is that they report to police who should give them a letter indicating the loss."
Siminyu observed that if someone feels that someone has stolen their passport, they can proceed against such a person in courts of law. He explained that in case an individual wants to get another passport, they report to Immigration with the police report and apply for a replacement.
"You have to fill passport application forms A and B and attach the police report. Then, you write an explanation detailing how you lost your passport and request for a replacement. You attach two passport size photographs and an affidavit (Form G) that is commissioned by the commissioner of oaths. Form G is available at Immigrations and on our website (www.immigration.co.ug). But one can also swear an affidavit and bring it," he expounded.
Besides, Siminyu said the applicant is also required to fill a questionnaire (Form I) which seeks answers on how one lost their passport.
Thereafter, the applicant pays sh150,000, the normal passport processing fee which takes 10 working days, plus a fine of sh100,000. In case one prefers an express passport that is processed within two days, they pay sh300,000 plus the sh100,000 fine. "The fine and passport fees are paid separately using separate bank slips because they different fees," Siminyu clarified.
Upon receiving the application, Siminyu said, Immigration notifies Interpol to blacklist the passport so that anybody attempting to use it at any international border is immediately arrested. "We then proceed to process and issue another one."