Jun 25, 2009, 5:53 AM
Affected Gambians in the United Kingdom have informed The Point that the Gambian High Commission in London has ‘ceased the extension of expired Gambian passports for the past few months’ thereby forcing them to send their travel documents back home or else risk staying in the UK with an invalid passport or travel document.
Several Gambian international students and other migrants may require urgent assistance in passport extensions, and because the Christmas holiday is fast approaching offices here may shut down for a period of time, making it difficult for hard-working Gambians and their families to regularise their documents.
Also other Gambians in similar situations who have currently submitted their travel documents to solicitors or the Home Office for different purposes ranging from visa extensions to permanent stay, may also be delayed.
For example Seedy Manka, an undergraduate student living in London, said he found it ‘very difficult to send his passport back home because it may arrive late or even get lost’. He recalled that his nephew’s passport disappeared in ‘similar circumstances’ and because of that he had some issues with the Immigration’. Therefore, he emphasised that he is unwilling to do the same mistake sending his passport away.
College student Fatoumata D. Sowe in Scotland complaining about the same problem wrote: ‘This is the reason why we decided to contact you, because The Point is helping us a great deal and supplying us with relevant information that we are relying on to make effective personal precautions and decisions’.
Due to such concerns, on Tuesday 3rd December, this correspondent contacted the Gambia High Commission in London by email that was sent twice including a telephone conversation requesting for an explanation, for the sake of those concerned.
As we approach the Christmas vacation, could you please shed light on the issue of Gambians and others who may be interested in visiting your office or who may have important appointments in trying to contact or reach you?
Also could you please confirm whether or not the renewal of passports is now accepted at the London Embassy? Thank you for your kind cooperation. Wish you all the best...
The following day this correspondent again contacted the High Commission by telephone repeating our enquiries. However, he was told to speak to the Secretary who was not at work. Thus, my efforts proved futile.
However in its website, the High Commission noted that it ‘‘wishes to inform the General Public that it is in receipt of a circular from the relevant Gambian authorities advising that henceforth expired Gambian Passports are NOT TO BE EXTENDED...’’
Further investigations also revealed that the Embassy has been told that ‘hand written extensions are no longer allowed and therefore, with immediate effect, anyone affected should provide a new passport’.
An official familiar with the ‘notice’, also revealed that the International Air Transport Association (IATA) has ‘directed such moves’, but at the same time noted that ‘it is the duty of any embassy affected representing its country and people to formally make his case known and to help its citizen in times of difficulty’.