On behalf the Council Of Ghanaian Nationals Associations in Italy, I want to appeal to you to use your popular mass media instrument to channel the cause of Ghanaians living in Italy in the issue of increase in fees of Passport processing at the Embassy of the Republic of Ghana in Rome – Italy. In fact the passport fee for obtaining a new passport from the Ghana
Rough statistics show that over fifteen thousand (15,000) Ghanaian passports are due for replacement in Italy, during the arc of a year ranging from June 2005 and September 2006. With and increase of €85.00 per Passport, Ghana Government stands to bag about €1,275 000.00. (1.275mln Euros). Really good money! Not so? But seams to stem a deliberate cheating and unfair Government policy.
Comparatively a median amount of €115.00 is charged in other Ghana Missions in Europe. (France, Germany, Belgium, England, Switzerland, etc)
Ghanaians residing in Italy and for that matter COGNAI have a strong feeling and perception that they have been single out amongst all Ghanaian citizens in the Diaspora to be cheated and treated unjustly. COGNAI has long reserved to treat the issue with tact and diplomacy; by first attempting to invite the Minister for Consular services at the Ghana Embassy in Rome on two occasions without success, then we appealed to the Ambassador in Rome for a discussion and/or to find a solution . That meeting ended with the Ambassador affirming that they were implementing a policy from the competent authorities in Ghana. The Ambassador, Dr. Dsane Selby reiterated that the Government of Ghana had made all the necessary valuations related to the local parameters and factors and have come to conclude that such charges were befitting for Ghanaians residing in Italy. Leaders of COGNAI and other Ghanaian Nationals Associations in Italy have every reason to suggest that such valuations are not accurate and do not in anyway merit an increase in Passport processing fees in Italy. In fact the Gross National Product and the Balance of payment deficit of the Italian Economy have witnessed a steady decline for the pas two years. The Unemployment population in the Industrial and manufacturing sectors of the Italian Economy is of the increase recently. These are the sectors of major employment avenue for the foreigners and for that matter the Ghanaians in Italy. Since three years now with the introduction of the Bossi-Fini Migrants Law and the introduction of the new labour market laws known as Legge Biagi, employment for the foreigner has been very difficult, for the best a foreigner can only secure a temporary and or a casual job. Cost of living for the foreigner has also increased because the Bossi-Fini migrant law also impels a foreigner to secure a decent accommodation before he/she can be offered a job. All these factors and many others explains why the plight of Ghanaians living in Italy should not be further aggravated with increases in passport processing fees and consular charges at the Embassy in Rome.
Furthermore, Ghanaian Citizens residing in Italy are noted for their industrious adventures in their motherland Ghana. Ventures of Building Houses, Opening of shops, opening of small scale business enterprises, Donations to various communities and societies for the benefit of the poor and needy in Ghana, Aid in some development and constructive projects /activities in Ghana. Needless to say that certain policies of Government, like the unwarranted increase in Passport fees at the Ghana Embassy in Rome, may sway their interests, love and concern for mother Ghana and thus dissuade them continuing their generous and benevolent actions.
Having the strong believe that your media has the potential of informing correctly the Ghanaian public back home, so do we send to you this letter and attached piece of information. So that our compatriots can make their rightful contribution, suggestion and judgement in this matter. We believe the view of the Ghanaian public opinion on the matter is essential, since it is an issue of civil service and measures the quality of service that Government officials ought to render to the citizens for whom they have been put into those offices. To add assault to injury we were informed recently by the deputy Foreign Affairs Minister on his visit to Rome, that, the present Ghanaian Passports are going to be faced out soon. If so why make us pay more for a passport that very soon will be valueless. Logically it should have been that processing a new Ghanaian passport now, attracts a lesser fee. Really Government policy on this issue is incomprehensible.
The Ghanaians in Italy need justice. We need to be treated fairly and we need to be cherished and valued. We need to be treated with due respect and dignity. We need justice now, for justice denied us now not only means justice deprived but also implies a deliberate intent of the Government of Ghana to cheat us. Making us pay more than other Ghanaians residing in Europe only paints us like a discriminated and humiliated citizens, whose voices and plight calls for no attention.
Kofi Omari Somuah (President)