The financial crisis that has devastated Greece and brought various consequences seems to be affecting Greeks living abroad as well. We all knew that the crisis could spread to neighboring EU countries, but we never thought about the Greeks of Diaspora feeling the same havoc.
Greek citizens living in the UK are waiting indefinitely to renew their passports due to changes in application procedures and staff shortages at the Greek Consulate in London.
The Consulate Services Office in London is responsible for handling passport services for all of Britain’s Greek nationals. Since July 2011, people applying for a new passport have had to book an appointment online to make their application in person at the consulate, instead of sending their application by post.
The new policy is a response to changes to EU security guidelines that makes it mandatory for Greek passports to include a microchip that contains digital fingerprints from the index fingers of both hands of citizens over the age of 12.
However, the online booking system shows no availability for appointments, making it impossible for applicants to determine when they can renew their passports.
The long wait has been put down to the fact that the number of employees working in the passport services department has been significantly slashed. The cutbacks are due to the well-known drastic austerity measures.
“Our suggestion is to keep going online and waiting to see if there is a cancellation,” said Vassos Levois at the Greek Embassy in London. “There is no other way to do this from the UK. You must find a way to get an appointment by going online,” he explained, adding that Greeks have to wait more than six months sometimes to get their passport.
Christopher Philippides, Honorary Consul for the Greek Consulate in Birmingham, suggests flying directly to Greece to renew passports alternatively if an appointment cannot be made.
“It’s possible to fly directly to Greece with an expired passport from the UK and renew it there before coming back to Britain. This is not an ideal situation but it might be the fastest option for people,” he said.