Middlemen still active at passport offices

Dhaka,  Thu,  17 August 2017
Published : 04 Aug 2017, 22:46:38
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Middlemen still active at passport offices

Arafat Ara

Middlemen are still active in the process of delivering passports at the Agargaon office of the Department of Immigration and Passports.

The malpractice has been going on although the authorities claim to have taken different initiatives to stop it.

It is alleged that a section of corrupt officials is involved in the process. They do not provide proper services deliberately so that the middlemen could squeeze out extra bucks from the passport-seekers.

The money illegally is distributed among the dishonest section of officials. Some protection forces including police and Ansar are also involved in deceitful activities, they complained.

While visiting the Agargaon passport office, this correspondent found a number of middlemen in and outside its premises.

Nuruzzaman, a middleman, approached this scribe mistaking her as a passport-seeker. He offered to deliver a passport within seven days at an amount of Tk 14,000. He also said no one could get a passport in time without their (middlemen) help.

Nuruzzaman said presently they can't manage police verification report from Dhaka. So he advised this reporter to use her present address in Mymensingh and go for finger print and complete other procedures there.

"You have to spend only one day to go to Mymensingh. After that, all responsibilities are mine to deliver your passport", the broker assured this correspondent.

When asked, Nuruzzaman said the police officials appointed for verification reports are now under strict supervision. So they can't communicate with them.

Every day the agent in question makes deals with at least 15 people to help provide passports within the shortest possible time. So far, he claimed to have provided such services to more than 1,000 people.

Talking to the FE, a large number of people, who went to the Agargaon office for getting passports, said, middlemen at first tried to trap them. They offered hassle-free services. Some of passport-seekers have also taken the help of the intermediaries.

They said they face harassment that begins with the first step of completing formalities for having passports and continues until they receive those.

"I received a passport within six days as a middleman helped in this process. I gave Tk 13,000 to the person," said Mr Alam, who will go to Egypt for travel.

"There was no option as my flight is only the day after tomorrow. If I go through normal procedure, it will take minimum 15 days," he pointed out.  

Besides, a section of brokers also charges extra money from mostly illiterate people while depositing fees with banks, attesting documents and for other purposes.

However, a group of students who will go to India for visit said they did not face much trouble as they applied online and submitted documents with designated desks.

Monira Khatun, a housewife who went to the office to renew her passport, also said, the services have improved to some extent now-a-days.

"If officials perform their duty honestly, there is no reason for harassment," she observed.

Considering the number of passport-seekers, the Passport Department has already decentralised its Machine Readable Passport (MRP) distribution services to four places including Uttara, Jatrabari, Dhaka Cantonment and Bangladesh Secretariat in the city.

But the same problems also exist in the centres other than those located in Dhaka Cantonment and Bangladesh Secretariat, said an official, wishing anonymity.

He said brokers are also active at Uttara and Jatrabari passport offices.

Officials in every district, who supervise police verification reports, intentionally make delay in sending documents to the Special Branch (SB) for investigation so that the passport-seekers are forced to give bribe or take help of the middlemen, he added.

He said the officials engaged in monitoring the entire process are also involved somehow in the racket. The illegal practices decline to some extent when the police arrest the brokers. But after some days, they are found back in the business.

According to officials at the Department of Immigration and Passports, urgent passports are delivered after seven days. On the other hand, in the normal process, the passports are given within 21 days after submitting applications along with deposit of required fees or charges.

When contacted, project director of MRP and Machine Readable Visa (MRV) project Saidur Rahman Khan said they are trying to expedite service delivery to the passport seekers.

They are also planning to increase the number of counters so that the passport-seekers get smooth services. Middlemen are being arrested on regular basis. After introducing CCTV cameras on different floors, their activities have been controlled in the office premises, he said.

The department will also increase the number of CCTV cameras to help check such malpractices, he said.

    arafat_ara@hotmail.com
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