The British High Commission in Kampala yesterday regretted what it called "the distress and inconvenience" suffered by about 70 Ugandans whose passports and original documents accompanying visa application forms went missing two weeks ago on a flight from Pretoria, South Africa, to Entebbe.
Mr Samuel Paice, the head of communications at the British High Commission, told Daily Monitor that both the UK Visas and Immigration office and their visa handling subcontractor, TLScontact, had commenced investigations into the incident.
"TLScontact has provided a full apology in writing to the Ugandan visa applicants affected, along with confirmation of the loss to help them apply for new documents from the relevant issuing authority, and is working with them to ensure that they are appropriately compensated for any fees incurred in replacing lost documents."
Mr Paice also said those affected are receiving assistance with the next steps in their visa application process."
"Protection of applicants' personal data is something we take extremely seriously and prioritise at every stage of the visa application process," he said in an email response to our inquiries.
The consignment of passports along with the original documents submitted along with visa applications forms, including land titles and academic transcripts normally requested for to ascertain whether the individual applicants have strong attachment to their countries and are in position to return once granted the visas, was being transported by a renowned courier firm that the British government uses in Kampala.
Application of and issuance of the UK Visa usually takes about 15 working days.
Yesterday, the Uganda High Commission in Pretoria, South Africa, also said they had launched a separate inquiry into the disappearance of the passports.
High Commissioner Julius Moto told Daily Monitor from Pretoria that he had received notification about the bizarre incident at the weekend and they were expecting a detailed report from the UK Home Office, which is responsible for immigration issues, by end of the week.
"The details of all the passports have been taken down so that they don't fall in the wrong hands," Mr Moto said
He added: "Normally when someone loses a passport, they are supposed to report the case to police, get a letter and then re-apply for a new one.
In this case, since the passports got lost in the hands of the British, we expect them to circulate the details to various systems so that they don't fall in the hands of wrong elements and or if they do, they are detected."
In Kampala, Foreign Affairs Permanent Secretary James Mugume told this newspaper separately he had "instructed" the Pretoria Mission to follow-up the matter and also brought it to the attention of the Home Office which was yet to respond.
Some victims, who spoke to this newspaper on condition of anonymity for fear of being denied the UK visa in future, described the occurrence as very "disorganising" much as the British High Commission and TLSContact had apologised individually. TLS's local office did not pick or return our calls.
However, people familiar with the matter told this newspaper that officials in Pretoria had reviewed the CCTV camera footage at the airport which clearly indicated the package being loaded on the plane. How it disappeared remains a mystery but by the time the British High Commission communicated, the consignment could not be located.
Source: The Monitor.