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9 Aug, 2007 05:05

Visa corruption alleged at Polish consulate in Ukraine

An investigation into visa corruption claims has been launched in Ukraine. Some people say they have had to pay bribes to get documents that should be free.

Queues in front of the Polish consulate in western Ukraine sometimes number up to a thousand people. Three months ago they even put registration on hold due to the large number of visa-seekers.  

Nadezhda Kovalchuk has been waiting since May to pick up hers. Living on the border with Poland, she goes there often to shop – that is to buy cheaper clothes and food to sell them later in Ukraine. As it is her only way of making money, she’s nervous that this shopping trip may not happen at all. 

“I paid for my application in one of the vans outside the consulate here three months ago. And today the van is gone. I don’t know if I have to wait another three months now. And some women here say they can get a visa for me in a week’s time. But they want me to pay when it’s supposed to be for free,” explains Nadezhda Kovalchuk.

Indeed there are entrepreneurs in the queue that promise people a visa fast for US$100. Suzanna Bobkova, a Lvov journalist working for the Vysoky Zamok newspaper, believes they could not be doing it without an inside contact in the consulate.

When others have to wait for months, Suzanna got a working visa in 10 days. 

“I told an agent that I was unemployed. Apparently it was enough information for him. I didn’t even have to pick up my visa personally. It’s obvious that he wasn’t acting on his own. He’s got to have contacts in the consulate,” she says.

The Polish embassy confirmed the visa was genuine but refused to comment further. The European Union’s mission in Kiev and the Ministry of Foreign Affairs disclaimed the responsibility for the long queues and middlemen too.