Belgian embassy needs to revise visa acquisition procedures

Rwandans who seek to travel to Belgium require visas, the same for Belgians who seek to travel to Rwanda. But the two have totally different visa acquisition processes through which intending travellers pass. Whereas Belgians can access visa application forms online, fill them without necessarily going to the Rwandan mission in Brussels, and fly straight to Kigali International airport where they then pay US$60, Rwandans have to line up for hours on end at the Belgian embassy in Kigali. Not that the procedures have to be similar. After all it is understandable why Rwanda makes it easier for visitors than Belgium: it badly needs their money. Belgium does not have to offer any incentive to Rwandans who visit the EU member country because they doubt the value of what they will be importing. Whether that is enough to justify the inhuman treatment meted onto Rwandan visa seekers remains a mystery. For example, the Belgian embassy has never found it important to provide shelter for applicants at their premises waiting for consideration. Outside the gate as security guards attend to them, they endure sunshine or rain, for days, even weeks, before being allowed or denied.

Rwandans who seek to travel to Belgium require visas, the same for Belgians who seek to travel to Rwanda. But the two have totally different visa acquisition processes through which intending travellers pass. Whereas Belgians can access visa application forms online, fill them without necessarily going to the Rwandan mission in Brussels, and fly straight to Kigali International airport where they then pay US$60, Rwandans have to line up for hours on end at the Belgian embassy in Kigali.

Not that the procedures have to be similar. After all it is understandable why Rwanda makes it easier for visitors than Belgium: it badly needs their money. Belgium does not have to offer any incentive to Rwandans who visit the EU member country because they doubt the value of what they will be importing. Whether that is enough to justify the inhuman treatment meted onto Rwandan visa seekers remains a mystery.

For example, the Belgian embassy has never found it important to provide shelter for applicants at their premises waiting for consideration. Outside the gate as security guards attend to them, they endure sunshine or rain, for days, even weeks, before being allowed or denied.

Worryingly, the Charge d’ Affaires does not know how that can go on at his mission. At least that is what he told journalists, which makes matters worse when the head of a foreign mission is ignorant about how potential visitors to his country are handled.

The question people ask is whether it is difficult for the Belgians to deal with the visa application exercise, say, the American way; make the forms available on the embassy website and accept online applications. Then schedule for them appointments so that they only visit the embassy when they are assured of being interviewed.

That way time is saved and dignity preserved, and both are too precious to be taken lightly. We hope the issue will be addressed as soon as possible, lest you lend credence to accusations of colonial hangover.

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