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09.09.2004 Press Review

EDITORIAL - Visa Fraud, Can It Be Stopped?

By Chronicle

THE NEWS that the Ghana Police Service is to set up a unit to check visa fraud is welcome even though many Ghanaians argue that its like putting the cart before the horse.

To be quite honest about it, even when a completely new face is set up, it will not make much of a difference in the visa fraud scams that are so prevalent in our society because of the obsession to leave this country.

And until something concrete is done to make our youth change their attitude to what is now accepted as "paradise" on earth for our huge members of bored and unemployed people, the desire to leave here to seek greener pastures will continue to fuel the visa fraud deals.

The long queues at the various Western Embassies simply testify to one thing: many Ghanaians are unhappy with their living conditions and believe that their sole salvation lies in gaining visas, any visa, to travel to Europe or America, work for some years and presto, their accumulated dollars will leapfrog them into a better life when they come back home.

Thus for many people, paying between $3,000 and $5,000 to obtain visas through "connection" men is nothing more than a good investment. Should they get the visa and travel, it is known that even when one earns labourer's wages, a few months of work would cover the cost of the visa.

The rest of the time is all capital savings as far as they are concerned.

Besides, the various Western countries themselves have inadvertently contributed to the problem by making the visa requirements so stringent and difficult that some people feel totally intimidated and reckon that it requires "experts" and visa contractors to help them obtain them.

The poverty, unemployment and general under-development of our society make our youth desperate to get out so they can at least use their productive years "slaving" outside, earn some foreign money which they can bring back and invest for their middle age and retirement. As the facts and statistics now show, remittances from Ghanaians working abroad now account for a sizeable chunk of the country's foreign exchange receipts.

Most of the people sending those remittances will testify to how they had to struggle to get their visas before they were able to travel outside. Since it does not require a degree to travel, even stark illiterates with money can equally aspire to seek visas and once these are people in the business of arranging visas, what is to stop them?

There have been instances where politicians have even been implicated in these visa scams. And The Chronicle is painfully aware of the huge number of people involved in visa scams. The point, however, is that since there is a huge demand, there will be people ready to hustle to provide the services.

What we believe the authorities must do is not to simply set up units to check the visa fraud but make more options available to Ghanaians who genuinely want to better their lives.

Certainly, we are not advocating that the government should sit down and watch criminal elements continue to dupe gullible and desperate people who wish to travel.

We suggest that government explores the possibility of coming to some arrangement for young Ghanaian workers to serve in needy countries so that the pressure can be reduced on some of the countries where we queue for visas.

Sadly it is true that after trying and failing, some Ghanaians even risk crossing the dangerous and bandit-infested Sahara Desert so they can cross into Europe-visa free! Many young men and women have lost their lives this way and when one listens to some Libya-returnees tell their stories, one would understand why some people are ready to pay so much money to obtain "connection" visas.

The Chronicle believes that when our economic circumstances improve, when conditions for job creation increase and Ghana becomes a less corrupt country, the police would not need to waste resources creating units to check visa scams that are created by our own shortcomings.

Make Ghanaians capable wealth creators and not dependent poverty reducers and all these negative traits will disappear.

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