Scrutinising government

Greek Embassy in London grinds to a halt

Not enough Greek euros – resulting in London embassy being unable to issue passports.

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 slashed. The cutbacks are due to the ongoing economic crisis in Greece and the need to implement drastic austerity measures.

‘It could take up to six months to get an appointment but it’s difficult to say,’ said a spokesperson at the Greek Embassy. ‘There might be an appointment in October if there is a cancellation. But there could also be a cancellation tomorrow. We are very understaffed and very busy right now to take any appointments or to tell you when a future appointment can be made.’

‘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.’

Christopher Philippides, Honorary Consul for the Greek Consulate in Birmingham, suggests flying directly to Greece to renew passports 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.