Kenyan in the US petitions government to set up e-passport centre in Los Angeles

The new Kenyan E-passport. [Photo Wikipedia]

A US-based Kenyan, Paddy Mwembu has lodged a petition with the Office of the President seeking to have an e-passport centre established in Los Angeles.

Mwembu who lives in California said that his petition is aimed at bringing down the hassle of Kenyans who travel all the way to Washington DC for immigration services.

In his petition, he argued that almost half of Kenyans in America live on the west coast which further compounds his bid to have an e-centre in Los Angeles.

“Considering the distance and the cost of travel to Washington DC for processing of e-passport biometrics only, [it] fails to make economic sense. The distance to Washington DC is extreme and the total cost is prohibitive,” he said in the petition according to Nation.

“As an alternative, e-passport biometrics processing can be performed at the consulate in Los Angeles. The office is fully functional, appropriately staffed and has the capability to handle e-passport processing,” he added.

Kenyans in Los Angeles have to cover 4,300 km to Washington DC to apply for the new generation passport, a service now being lobbied for the Kenyan Los Angeles consulate.

His petition has so far gathered 1,000 signatures from the diaspora community.

The e-passport was launched in August 2017 and the government gave September 2019 as the deadline for compliance.

However, due to public pressure, this was pushed to March 2020 when the coronavirus pandemic struck. This, again, threw a spanner into the works and the Immigration Department said that an estimated 1.8 million Kenyans in the diaspora are yet to replace their old passports.

When contacted on the petition, Alex Muteshi, the Director-General of the Immigration Department told the Nation that they are considering rolling out the application of new generation passports in Los Angeles.

Muteshi underscored that the COVID-19 pandemic slowed down their plans.

“Los Angeles remains a priority in our programme to open more passport submission stations. We, however, have been held back a bit in this programme by Covid-19, though it remains on course,” he said.

Mwembu’s petition has been inspired by the fact the Kenyan Embassy in Washington DC is not only miles away from scores of Kenyans in the US but is also overwhelmed because it also serves Kenyans in Mexico.

The cost of travelling from Los Angeles to Washington DC is expensive as well.