The Government of Liberia has officially launched the Liberian Biometric ECOWAS Passport Application Center (PAC) in the Schengen zone of Europe. The launch took place March 14, at the Liberian Embassy near Brussels, Belgium.
Liberia's Ambassador-designate to the Kingdom of Belgium, the Netherlands, Luxemburg and the European Union, Isaac W. Nyenabo II, said the center will ease the hardships, frustration and financial cost of obtaining a passport for Liberian citizens living in the Schengen zone of Europe.
Ambassador Nyenabo said that in the past, Liberians had to travel to the United Kingdom, United States or to Monrovia to apply for and obtain a passport. The Liberian Biometric ECOWAS PAC in the heart of Europe where Liberians in that zone do not require visas to travel, makes it easier and convenient for them.
Ambassador Nyenabo called on Liberians to hold and respect their passports as a national document that must be cared for and protected.
He challenged members of the Liberian communities in Belgium, France, Germany, Italy, Holland, Luxenburg and others to work closely together and play an important role in the development of their country.
The Director of Passports and Visas at the Ministry of Foreign Affairs, Mrs. Nyanda Finda-Davis, said the center has now finally concluded discussions that had been taking place in the wake of calls made by Liberians living in the Schengen zone to the Liberian government to provide the PAC.
Mrs. Finda-Davis said the center has introduced measures that will ensure that genuine Liberians are processed, screened and issued passports, while others who are not Liberians but holding Liberian passports or travel documents will relinquish those documents.
She called on members of the Liberian Community to assist and work closely with the center to ensure that its work is done without hinderance.
The President of the Liberian Community in Belgium, Kingston Wleh, commended President Ellen Johnson-Sirleaf and Foreign Minister Augustine Kpehe Ngafuan for the opening of the center in Brussels.
Mr. Wleh said President Sirleaf and Minister Ngafuan had at different times assured them of the opening of the passport center and Liberians living in Europe were pleased that the promise had now been fullfilled.
Before the PAC was established, he said Liberians living in the Schengen zone had to struggle to obtain visas by travelling to the UK, USA or to Liberia and wait for weeks before their passports were issued. Even with that, he said, there was no assurance that one would even get the passport.
He said now with the passport center right in Brussels, Liberians from around Europe will find it very easy and convenient to apply for and get their passports without leaving their families and jobs for weeks.
At the official launching program, a Liberian, Ms. Kathy Dunbar, became the first person to receive her Liberia ECOWAS Biometric passport. Later 22 other Liberians received their passports amid cheers and jubilation.
The Liberian government has already opened Biometric PACs at the Liberian Embassies in Washington, D.C. and London and at the Liberian Consulate in New York.