Batswana residing outside the country will be allowed into the country using their old passports although the use of the old passport, which required manual handling when processing, has been discontinued in the country.
The Communications Officer for the Department of Immigration and Citizenship, Osesenaqa Lekgoko, stated that a provision was made that those people outside the country who have not been able to change to e-passports would be allowed back into the country so that they can change to e-passports before leaving Botswana again.
Lekgoko dispelled reports that said there are some Batswana who are stranded in North African countries because their passports have been taken away from them with the promise that they would be allocated new ones.
Refuting the allegations, Lekgoko said that the department only takes back the old passports in exchange for the electronic passport. She said that there is no deadline for people to have converted their old passports to e-passports.
She pointed out that the deadline for the use of the old passport was December 31, 2011.
Lekgoko added that no action will be taken against those who have not yet applied for e-passports but they will not be able to travel outside the country until they have acquired the e-passport as the old manual passport is no longer recognised as a travelling document.
However, Batswana who are out of the country and are still using old passports will be allowed to come back into the country despite the passing of the deadline of the use of the old passport.
On the issue of the recent reduction of Immigration working hours, Lekgoko said that the department started operating on extended hours, including lunch and weekends, in June 2010 to cater for Batswana who wanted to go to the World Cup. She said that the service continued to cater mainly for those who could not make it to Immigration offices during week days or lunch time.
She further said that another reason for having the extended hours was to ensure that people who needed their passports before the deadline to phase out the use of old passports could get the new ones on time. Lekgoko said that the decision to cease the extended hours was to allow the officers, who had been working during all this period, to rest as well as to reduce the financial demands of overtime.
She added that the department of Immigration is, however, encouraging members of the public who are travelling and those who do not have the e-passport to apply in time to avoid the last minute rush.