Biometric passports coming to Armenia, Nepal, Zimbabwe
Afghanistan’s Taliban government has extended passport issuance, recently only available in the capital Kabul, to seven provinces, and will prioritize issuing the travel ID documents to those who have already filled out applications, Republic reports.
Passport Directorate Chief Alam Gul Haqqani says there are a million passports currently going through the printing process, with another million and a half in queue. The new government has issued 100,000 passports since taking over the country, according to the report.
Demand for the passports appears to be confirmed by reports from Reuters that the Kabul passport office has suspended operations after equipment to issue the biometric documents broke down. There is currently a backlog of thousands of applications waiting to be processed. The process has been complicated by people attempting to use forged documents to obtain passports, including members of the passport department, and allegedly by corrupt officials.
Caucasus and Eastern Europe
The European Union is supporting the IOM, the UN migration agency, in a donation of passport scanners to the Georgian Ministry of Internal Affairs to enable the country to authenticate the biometric ID documents, writes Georgian Journal.
The passport readers will be used by the Georgian Patrol Police, and is intended to support the Visa Liberalization Action Plan signed between the country and the EU.
Across the border in Armenia, the national police, who are responsible for passport issuance, are working towards the introduction of biometric passports, according to NEWS.am.
The Deputy Chief of Police revealed the plan following talks on the draft of the government’s 2022 budget, which does not yet allocate money to upgrade Armenian passports. The plan is to issue new passports with only a two-year validity period, before the issuance of biometric passports, which will have the country’s standard ten-year validity, begins.
Belarus managed to issue 30,000 biometric passports and ID cards to people in the country over the last two months, state-owned outlet BelTA reports. The country is currently locked in a stand-off with neighbor Poland and the EU over border control and migration.
Nepal reaches issuance
Nepal’s Department of Passport says issuance of the country’s new biometric passports is set to begin this week, Onlinekhabar reports.
Idemia was announced as supplier for the documents last year, following a bidding war with competitors. Onlinekhabar reports the contract is for $21.1 million, and involves biometric passports rolling out gradually, even as legacy machine-readable passports continue to be issued.
Nigeria’s government has announced the issuance of 2.7 million biometric passports in the past two years, as it attempts to streamline the application and issuance process, reports Premium Times. The Ministry of the Interior says it has taken steps to address shortages of blank booklets, by ordering 600,000 units. The Ministry is also attempting to reform the process to deal with increasing demand for passports.
Zimbabwe’s government has approved the design for its new ICAO-compliant biometric passports, the Chronicle writes, and is renovating a pair of biometric enrollment centers, one in Harare and one in Bulawayo. The country has reduced its backlog of passport applications in the meanwhile from 400,000 to 184,000.
UK charges five
The UK’s National Crime Agency has charged five people after breaking up a passport fraud ring that it says supplied fraudulent documents to notorious organized crime figures.
The group allegedly specialized in fraudulently-obtained genuine passports, and supplied them to criminals including international drugs and firearm traffickers.