An open complaint to Barbadian foreign affairs consulates

This is an open letter to the State Senator responsible for foreign affairs in Barbados, the Foreign Minister of Barbados, the Deputy Foreign Minister of Barbados, and the High Commissioner of Barbados in London.

The originals of this letter have been sent to these individuals and, at the time of this publication, have remained unanswered.

The letters were initially to highlight the insurmountable difficulty in obtaining a new Barbadian passport in a country that does not have an official Barbadian consulate or embassy.

However as I continued through their self sustaining process, I appended the letter to also include the bureaucratic, self-important attitudes of those that work at the London consulate.

If you have had a similar experience with an embassy or consulate, do not be afraid to pick up a pen and write to someone further up the chain. These people are our representatives and, as civil servants, are supposed to work on behalf of a government that we have elected.

After salutations, my letter begins;

On the 2nd of September I wrote to you to complain about the passport service that is currently in place for Barbadian citizens and its crippling limitations when applying from abroad.

Unfortunately I still have not heard from your office, and my subsequent dealings with the staff at the High Commission have been deliberately unhelpful. To this end, in addition to following up on the previous letter, I would also like to add a further complaint about the subsequent lack of interest that this complaint has received, and the unhelpful attitudes of your staff members, details of which I will unveil in this letter.

I am a Barbadian citizen based in Australia.

My passport ran out in July 2013 and I have been informed that we are required to obtain new passports rather than renewing the old one.

My application for a new passport requires providing all original documents along with my application form. Some of these documents are fragile and easily damaged.

The requirements on the application for date back to a time when Barbadians lived in smaller societies, and do not reflect our mark on the modern age. I have demonstrated several examples below.

  • The most restrictive aspect of the application form is that it requires the applicant to include a method of returning the documents. This means that if the applicant couriers the document from Australia to England, they are expected to include a couriered envelope to return the document. This would require the applicant to source the appropriate postage courier in England from Australia, get them to deliver the courier envelope to Australia, and then include this envelope in the application in order that it can be used to return the original documents.

It would be more effective for the High Commission to have a list of countries to which they would post the documents, and the fee for posting to these countries. This fee could then be included as an addition to the £110 sterling the applicant has to pay for the passport.

  • Sending an original birth certificate along with other original documentation from Australia to England, even via registered post, would give most people cause for concern given the risk of identity theft. Sending such critical original documents is an unusual practice in an age when certified copies are acceptable for British, Australian and American passports.
  • The application form asks the applicant to state whether they are Single, Married, or Divorced. None of these categories may best describe the applicant who may have a de facto relationship, which is equally recognised by other countries.
  • The applicant is asked to secure the endorsement of a person from one of the following professions; Priest, Medical Doctor, Police, Civil Servant or Barbadian official. This in itself can be limiting, however for that person to also to have personally known the applicant for four years is certainly a tall order for most.
  • The payment of £110 sterling plus any additional costs would be more securely received by the High Commission or any Barbadian office by electronic payment. eCommerce is widely used throughout the world and it would not be too difficult to set up a secure e-payment facility that would give the applicant a receipt number. That receipt number would then be entered onto the application for and this would act as proof that funds had been delivered and that the application could be processed.
  • On the week commencing 9th September 2013 I received a letter from the High Commission returning my application form and informing me that they required more information about my job and the job of the co-signatory on the application form. Nowhere on the application form does it state that a full description of either person’s job is required, only that they have to fit one of the previously mentioned professions. This provided further delays to the completion of my application.
  • I then received an email from Ms Marjorie Hamblin who wrote to inform me that the High Commission does not accept personal cheques. When I pointed out that the cheque that I had included was in fact for the Royal Mail as payment for the courier tracked document service, I received another email, repeating that the High Commission does not accept personal cheques. This inflexibility meant I was unable to arrange for my documents to be sent to me, so we came to an arrangement where a named representative with photo identification would collect the documents on my behalf, and arrange for their postage.
  • When my representative went to the High Commission, she was met with a lack of understanding of the events. My representative had the required photo identification and a copy of the email correspondence between Ms Hamblin and myself, yet staff told her that “it’s not due process” and how the arrangement was “highly unusual”. Their lack of understanding forced my representative to wait half an hour until Ms Hamblin herself could attend to the matter.

In my capacity of ex-President of the Caribbean Association of Victoria and founder member of Black Caucus Australia, I have spoken to many Barbadians living in Australia who feel disenfranchised by the obstacles that beset them in renewing their Barbadian passport. Many of them find the obstacles too difficult to overcome and relinquish their Barbadian passports simply by not renewing them.

It is these disenfranchised Barbadians who are then forced to use a passport from another country or obtain visas to return to their native land. Some who have no other passport feel trapped as they have no ability to renew their passport and are at risk of losing their visa for their country of residence which is lodged in their expired Barbadian passport.

Carrying a Barbadian passport is not just a legal obligation when travelling abroad, but a matter of national pride.

As [senator in the Barbados House of Representatives/Barbados Permanent Secretary/ Barbadian High Commissioner] I ask you to offer solutions to the above hurdles so that I, as a Barbadian citizen, can obtain a Barbadian passport as is my legal right.

I further ask that the process to carry our Barbadian passports is reviewed and improved as a matter of urgency by our government, by employing modern methods of processing, accounting and commerce.

Yours sincerely

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~ by jeditopcat on 26 October, 2013.

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