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Hundreds of millions worldwide become eligible for biometric passports

Ireland faces record demand, Malawi terminates contract
Hundreds of millions worldwide become eligible for biometric passports

Zimbabwe and Pakistan launch biometric passports while nations push for better service and support for their citizens overseas. Malawi terminates its passport production contract and quickly seeks a new local partner, while Ireland faces a near doubling of its previous record annual issuance.

Zimbabwe launches chip-enabled passport amid public backlash

President Mnangagwa has launched a new electronic passport, intended to safeguard immigration security, reports The Herald.

The Ministry of Home Affairs and Cultural Heritage said that Lithuanian printing firm Garsų Pasaulis has the contract for producing the new biometric passport, national ID cards, birth certificates and other civil registration documents.

Zimbabwe’s migration from the traditional passport to the e-passport conforms to the need to implement technology-aided improvements which safeguard immigration,” says the statement, as quoted by The Herald.

Zimbabweans have taken to social media to complain about the costs as a firm will be charging high fees for collecting the application fee. CBZ Holdings, belonging to high-profile businessman Kudakwashe Tagwirei, will collect a US$20 fee, to be processed by CBZ Bank, reports NewsDay.

At the beginning of the week, the government statement had promised that existing passports would remain valid, but this changed at the launch. Existing passports will now only be valid until 31 December, 2023 rather than their individual expiry dates.

New passports will now cost $100 plus the $20 fee, fixed at the dollar value.

At the launch, Mnanagwa said the new system could produce up to 30,000 passports per day which would tackle the backlog. The decentralized system will allow provinces and foreign missions to create the documents.

The 400,000 backlog goes back to 2018 and was exacerbated by a lack of foreign currency to import the consumables. Other reports find the backlog had already been reduced to 184,000. Production was stuck at around 400 per day, according to NewsDay.

“A massive national registration mobile exercise will be done next year to ensure citizens have documents before the next general elections,” NewsDay quotes the president as saying.

Malawi terminates passport contractor, searches for replacement

Malawi’s Minister of Homeland Security, Richard Chimwendo Banda, has revealed that the government has terminated its biometric passport contract with Techno Brain Malawi following allegations of corruption, reports the Nyasa Times. The government is looking to find another local supplier within 30 days.

The emphasis on a local contractor is to deliver value for money to Malawians as the Tonse Alliance coalition promised in their manifesto ahead of the 2020 general election to reduce passport fees from K90,000 to K14,000 (from $110 to $17).

The contract was ended by the government after an investigation found Techno Brain Malawi to be in breach of contract. This was around 32 months into the 36-month passport issuance contract and 42-month passport issuance system contract, which originally cost $60.8 million, reports the Nyasa Times.

Malawi has recently received UN funding to establish a digital ID database to improve access to services.

Ireland, population 5.2M, ‘to process 1.75M passports in 2022’

Ireland’s Department of Foreign Affairs warns that it may have to process 1.75 million passport applications next year after never before having reached the one million mark due to pent-up demand, reports the Irish Times.

This would become the department’s single biggest operational challenge for the year and require an extra €18 million ($23.7 million) in funding to pay for 300 staff, passport consumables and for extra office space.

Pre-COVID, the highest number of applications processed in a year was 950,000 in 2019. Brexit has led to an increase in demand as British citizens with Irish heritage have been able to apply to maintain an EU passport.

There is a backlog of 30,000 applications of people with foreign birth registration, reports the Irish Times.

In more positive recent news in Ireland, the country’s Public Service Identity framework, including a digital identity for MyGovID, has saved the country more than €200 million ($225 million) with a prediction that other models might show a further €300 million saving.

Pakistan to issue e-passports to citizens from 2022

Pakistan’s passport service is undergoing significant upgrades according to local reports. From next year, the federal government will begin issuing e-passports to Pakistani citizens at home and abroad, reports the Daily Times.

The authorities hope that biometric documents will simplify passport control and offer a way to automate services.

Online applications will be possible, reports Daily Pakistan, among other improvements such as fast track delivery, making it possible to obtain a passport within 24 hours.

The online facility will also allow for the renunciation of citizenship.

Nigerian lawmakers push for full automation of passport issuance worldwide

The House of Representatives has tasked President Muhammadu Buhari with a resolution to automate passport and National Identity Card issuance across embassies and commissions worldwide to provide a better service to the diaspora, reports The Tribune.

The improvements demanded include a maximum processing time of ten working days and guarantees that only statutory fees are payable and through official channels. Politicians have urged the Ministry of the Interior to engage with the National Identity Management Commission (NIMC) and other agencies to improve the service.

Nigerians have recently been reminded of the need for all to register for a biometric-based national identity number (NIN).

“The House further notes the deplorable level of services rendered by Nigerian Embassies and High Commissions around the world to Nigerians, particularly those in South Africa, the United Kingdom and the USA in the area of Passports, National Identity Card issuance, renewals and ancillary services,” Hon. Obinna Chidoka is quoted as saying.

“The House is concerned that the treatment meted out on Nigerian citizens abroad by officials of the Nigerian Embassies and High Commissions have not only affected the lives and businesses of the concerned citizens, it has brought shame and disgrace on Nigeria’s image and the psyche of our citizens.”

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