Months ago, two brilliant young Ghanaian boys had gained admission to study at their dream school – Achimota Senior High School. However, when they showed up to be enrolled they were turned away. Why?
They were wearing dreadlocks. They were asked to either cut their natural hair or go get admission elsewhere. Tyrone Marghuy and Oheneba Nkrabea’s issue became topical in the country and it later resulted in a court coming to the defence of the two brilliant boys.
That is the same fate that many have claimed that they have experienced at the various outlets of the Ghana Passport Office.
Judged by their hair, some claimed that officers in certain Ghana Passport offices have refused to provide them with the services they paid for.
In recent days, people have taken to social media to share how they were refused the chance to take the passport photo because of their dreadlocks, because they have dyed their hair or because they had beards.
While others also reported that they were not even allowed to enter the premises of the passport application centre because they were wearing tattered jeans. Adding that, they were forced to buy trousers and put them on before they were allowed entry.
These are not the same as the no white top requirement passport applicants are required by an officially stated policy to adhere to.
However, based on conversations with some staff of the passport who preferred to remain anonymous, these are discretionary filters instituted by some of the staff.
One worker told Kuulpeeps.com that they prevent people with tattered jeans from entering the premises because it’s not an acceptable way to dress to visit someone’s office.
However, on the issue of hair type and colour, they believed they are doing the applicants a favour by asking them to change it to a ‘socially acceptable colour’.
“When you look wretched on your passport it sometimes goes against you at the embassy when you apply for a passport,” the employee said.
According to the employee, it’s a way to prevent the embassy staff from negatively profiling you.
However, the employee was quick to add that “if your dreadlocks are neatly put together to the back and not covering parts of your face, they will allow you to take the photo.”
The same applied to the beard, which means that what is perceived to be neat is solely at the discretion of the Passport Office employee.
The no go area is the blonde or dyed hair, for that the officer said they won’t allow you without providing any form of security or legal basis other than the same it’s not socially acceptable.
However, others who have been to other outlets of the Ghana Passport Office, especially the one located at the Accra Digital Centre at Kwame Nkrumah Circle tell a different story.
People with dreadlocks who went there for their passports said they were served without encountering any problem with regards to their hair.
To better understand what the official position of the Passport Office is on the issue, Kuulpeeps.com spoke with the Director of Passports at the Passport Office, Louis Kwame Obeng who categorically stated that there is no prescribed dress code for passport applicants.
He said no Passport Application Centre officer has the right to turn away an applicant based on how they look.
He said applicants can wear the hair they want, in the colour they want and no employee should deny their services based on these.
“The passport office has no prescription regarding a particular way an individual should appear,” Louis said.
He said the officers who are turning people away due to their braids, hair dye and others are not representing the views of the Passport Office.
“If applicants decide that this is how they want to appear in my passport, Passport Office cannot say no you can’t appear this way,” he added.
“For the avoidance of doubt, there is nothing like a prescribed dress code for passport application,” he said.
He further advised that applicants who are denied the opportunity to take their passport photo based on their appearance must lodge a complaint with the head of that particular Passport Application Centre and that if it is not addressed, he or she can visit the Head Office at Ridge in Accra for a resolution.
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