The MP for North Tongu and Ranking Member on the Committee of Foreign Affairs, Mr Samuel Okudzeto Ablakwa, set the tone for the discussions when he read a statement on the treatment meted out to Ghanaian visa applicants by some embassies in Ghana.
Following his submissions, the Speaker of Parliament, Professor Aaron Mike Oquaye, asked the Committee on Foreign Affairs of Parliament to visit the various embassies to apprise themselves of the processes of visa acquisition and present a report to Parliament.
Mr Ablakwa said the shabby and dehumanising treatment Ghanaian visa applicants were subjected to on a daily basis threatened the good relations Ghana had with such countries.
Besides, he said, there was what many Ghanaian visa applicants considered to be extortionist conducts on the part of some of the embassies.
Mr Ablakwa expressed worry that most of the embassies had not made provision for a decent waiting area where visa applicants could be hosted before visa interviews.
“I have personally made the effort to visit a number of embassies during their interview appointment periods and what I have observed leaves me rather outraged.
“You find fellow Ghanaians standing in open places; some left to wait at street shoulders and roundabouts without one caring about the associated risks posed by motorists; others are left at the mercy of the vagaries of the weather, they could not be bothered if the sun is scorching, if it is raining or even if there is a category five hurricane — they simply don’t seem to care,” he said.
Mr Ablakwa wondered why the embassies could not use part of the non-refundable visa processing fees to provide waiting areas for their clients.
“Reports of disparaging remarks, poor human relations and outright insults are becoming rife. What is even more worrying is the fact that often some of the embassy staff who treat Ghanaian visa applicants with such disdain are fellow Ghanaians,” he said.
The Minority Leader, Mr Haruna Iddrisu, said most of the visa applicants were being pushed out of the country because of poverty and unemployment.
He, therefore, stressed the need for the country to improve the living conditions to serve as an incentive for the people to stay in the country.
Mr Iddrisu, who is the MP for Tamale South, said even MPs and ministers of state who were to attend international conferences were subjected to rigorous processes by the embassies.
He, therefore, asked foreign missions to make their visa requirements simple and “treat visa applicants with respect and honour.”
The Deputy Majority Whip, Mr Matthew Nyindam, said it was possible for visa applicants to have all their documents intact but the embassies refused them visas “with excuses that you cannot comprehend.”
“These same people who subject our people to these treatments we give them all the privileges,” Mr Nyindam, who is the MP for Kpandai, said.