Surinamese have to wait for months for a visa for the Netherlands (Schengen countries). This issue was discussed yesterday during a meeting with Minister Albert Ramdin of Foreign Affairs, International Business and International Cooperation with his Dutch colleague, Liesje Schreinemacher of Foreign Trade and Development Cooperation. The Association of Surinamese Travel Agents (ASRA) is pleased that the months-long waiting times for visa applications for the Netherlands (Schengen) have been addressed. Cindy Uden chairman of ASRA said to the news press that they hope that ALL matters have been discussed in this regard. They think that simply shifting the problem to the travel agencies is short-sighted.
The ASRA has already drawn attention to this several times, because it always refers to travel agencies that would ask for money. This, while several things are at play. According to Uden, neither the handler for visa applications nor the Dutch embassy seems to be listening to the situation. It seems almost impossible to make appointments. It was recently discovered that when people want to change an appointment, the calendar is completely open. But if you want to make an appointment for the first time, there appears to be no availability. They wonder how this is possible.
Minister Ramadhin stated that they have found it a bit unacceptable that they are encountering problems. According to him, it has been stated that 660 slots are open per week for visa applications. However, based on information obtained from the Dutch embassy, it must be established that Surinamese travel agents block certain slots and then sell them to clients. It will be investigated together with the ASRA whether it is true. He noted that this act is not allowed in the first place. And said that one should not ask for money for a service that is free. But they will certainly talk about it , so that the problem can be solve. The minister talks about 35% slots that will not be used in the long run, while other Surinamese could have been helped.
Uden noted that the accusation was always made that travel agencies block appointments. How is that possible when VFS has the ability to block and monitor IP addresses? Should it really be the case that travel agents or any other agency were guilty of this, then appropriate action should be taken against them. They are convinced that no wrongdoing will be committed at the agency itself – if that is not investigated. The ASRA is open and has always been open to discussion. The chairman said that unfortunately, not all authorities appear to be prepared to enter into an open discussion.