30,000 unclaimed Ugandan passports survive burning

Uganda's Internal Affairs scales down production of new passports by half
Spokesperson of the Ministry of Internal Affairs Simon Peter Mundeyi

Kampala, Uganda | URN | Owners of over 30,000 of the 40,000 Ugandan passports that had been condemned for burning before the end of this month, have resurfaced and claimed them, the Directorate of Citizenship and Immigration Control (DCIC) has revealed. 

DCIC through the spokesperson of the Ministry of Internal Affairs, Simon Peter Mundeyi, on June 27 announced that it was going to burn over 37,000 unclaimed passports because it had run out of space to keep them. The condemned passports were applied for and paid for in 2018, 2019 and 2020. 

The number of unclaimed Ugandan passports later increased to more than 40,000 after including those that were not collected last year. DCIC gave a two-month ultimatum which was ending mid this month and vowed to burn any passport that would not have been collected within that period.

However, Mundeyi on Monday 26, September 2022 revealed that ever since the threat to burn unclaimed Ugandan passports was made two months ago, owners have been resurfacing, and they are now left with only 10,000 unclaimed passports.

Because of the good turn up of passport owners, Mundeyi said they are going to continue encouraging people to pick their passports from the Kyambogo collection centre or upcountry offices. DCIC said it is now optimistic that owners of the remaining ones will also resurface.

Although DCIC insisted that owners had given incorrect telephone numbers, something that hindered efforts to send them messages in order to pick up their passports, sources in July informed this publication that the ministry’s messaging system had issues and SMS’ were bouncing back.

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A copy of the East African Community e-Passport

Another problem that led to the accumulation of unclaimed Ugandan passports was labour export companies that would only give one telephone line for hundreds of applicants they take abroad for employment.

DCIC accused labour export companies of hijacking the rights of applicants to individually collect their passports and as a result, several messages could bounce back since they were going to one SIM card.

Mundeyi said even if they successfully managed to send over 500 messages to one SIM card line, chances were that many would go unread, thus denying owners a chance to know that they are read. This, Mundeyi, emerged after establishing that most of the applicants had come through labour export companies.

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In response to DCIC’S accusation, Ronnie Mukundane, the spokesperson of Uganda Association of External Recruitment Agencies (UAERA), said it is the companies that pay for travel documents and that is why they always wish to be informed once the passports of their clients are ready.

“Ideally, we would wish that when the passports are ready, the companies should also be informed and be present at the time of picking,” Mukundane said.

“We on many occasions see applicants disappearing after picking up their passports. This causes a loss to the company that paid for the acquisition of that passport.”

Many applicants, after reading stories of passports that were going to be burnt followed DCIC’s advice of crosschecking with the Kyambogo collection centre. Indeed, many people have been finding their passports ready yet they had never received any message informing them that they had been printed.