In this Jubilee month, because it is expected that record numbers of people will pass through the Kotoka International Airport, it provides the opportunity to once more draw attention to the need for the Immigration Service to consider redesigning Ghana’s Embarkation/Disembarkation Form.
This form or Landing Card is expected to be completed by every departing passenger and arrival and handed in to the Immigration Service. It is in two parts, the second half being for the Ghana Tourist Board.
We first drew attention to some shortcomings on the form in January 2005 and we have noticed some corrections, but we still think it should be redesigned and made trimmer.
The trouble with the form is that it is too long and requires too many details. In any case, why can’t the Immigration Service and the Tourist Board use one trimmed down form in this computerised age?
Its shortcomings become very glaring when compared with similar forms of other countries. For example, the UK Landing Card is half the size of Ghana’s. It only asks for essential details such as name, sex, date of birth, nationality, occupation and address in the UK.
By contrast, in addition to the above information, the Ghana form wants to know the place of embarkation or disembarkation, the number of the flight or ship or car; purpose of visit, addresses in Ghana as well as overseas address. Even when one has stated that one is a resident, the form requires one to give both a Ghana address and an overseas address.
One would have thought that if someone is resident in Ghana, only their Ghana address should be required. Yet, the experience of returning residents is that Immigration officials insist on one providing an overseas address. Why does the Ghana government or the Immigration Service expect a returning resident to have an overseas address? What for?
And the Tourist Board wants to know, among other things 'country of current residence' and 'How many other people are travelling on your passport?' How relevant is this second question in these days when even babies are expected to have their own passport?
We would be grateful to have some answers! And it would be interesting to know what is being done with all these statistics that have been collected from passengers for years. One only hopes they are being collated and are serving a useful purpose.
It is our contention that Ghana could conveniently borrow a leaf from the countries that save their citizens from having to complete landing cards. For example, only visitors are required to complete the UK landing card. And we note that there are countries that don’t require landing cards at all.
Although the issue of the tedious Ghana landing card remains, on the other hand we are pleased to reiterate that there are still grounds for praise for the changes at the airport.
Anybody who has been passing through Ghana’s main gateway, in recent years can attest to the wonderful improvements at Kotoka, especially in the Arrival Hall.
The experience of arrivals now is a very different story from the horror stories that people had to tell once upon a time. Now even walking through the corridor into the Arrival Hall is quite a pleasant experience owing to the improved décor, and the arrival procedures are not so unfriendly.
More Immigration booths have been provided, thus cutting the long queues, the luggage trolleys are in plentiful supply in the arrival hall and unwanted assistance from dubious 'helpers' is absent.
There is even a red carpet treatment: The steep, very slippery ramp leading from the arrival hall to the exit, which posed a danger to ramp users, and which we wrote about sometime ago, now has been made safer by carpeting; a red carpet .
There is no doubt that the Accra airport is now more passenger-friendly and also more fit to welcome Golden Jubilee celebrants. What remains is for the tiresome Ghana landing card to be done away with altogether or redesigned to reflect the new image of the Kotoka International Airport.