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Belgium biometric passports feature new Zetes security innovation

Kenya and Dominica shift deadlines, issuance delays in Zimbabwe
Belgium biometric passports feature new Zetes security innovation

Belgium’s new biometric passports have been unveiled with protection from counterfeiting provided by a new technology co-developed by Zetes.

Initial dates set for the introduction of new passports in Kenya and Dominica have been revised for difference reasons, according to local media reports in these countries.

In Zimbabwe, a promise by authorities that issuance of a new generation of biometric passports would effectively begin by mid this month seems not to have been kept as applicants say they can’t obtain the ID documents yet.

Bahrain for its part is also looking at the possibility of introducing biometric passports which are increasing becoming en vogue across the world.

Counterfeiting protection for Belgium from Zetes and partners

Belgium’s new biometric passports, with security features from Zetes to prevent counterfeiting, has been unveiled, with the first copies on track for delivery to local authorities on February 7.

The passports feature passport holder’s photographs reproduced through a technique combining perforation and laser printing, which is used only on Belgian eIDs, and developed in collaboration with IAI Industrial Systems, according to the announcement. Other upgrades from the previous generation of Belgian passports include the polycarbonate page holding the bearer’s biographic data and biometrics.

Zetes says the close association of comic books with Belgian culture informed the decorative elements of the new passport.

“We are delighted to be able to continue our collaboration with the Ministry of Foreign Affairs,” says Zetes CEO Alain Wirtz. “The Belgian passport is a flagship document and a global showcase for our country’s expertise, since it is one of the most secure and widely accepted passports in the world.”

The contract for the biometric passports was won by Zetes and Thales in 2020.

Kenya pushes deadline to November 2022

The government of Kenya announced recently that the introduction of a new biometric passport initially slated for December 2021, is now only likely by December 2022 when the current passport format would have phased out, Mwakilishi reports.

The announcement was made by the Director-General of Immigration Services Alexander Muteshi who said the decision was taken during the 41st Ordinary session of the East African Community (EAC) Council of Ministers which took place last November in Tanzania, the report states.

After the deadline, Kenyans will be able to travel only using the EAC-type biometric passport which will be compliant with the standards of the International Civil Aviation Organization (ICAO).

The new passport planned by Kenya will be designed with a chip that will contain the biometric identifiers of the holder. It will also have advanced security features to make fraud and forgery difficult, Mwakilishi mentions.

Dominica biometric passports to be required earlier than planned

Previously planned for July 2023, authorities in the Caribbean nation of Dominica are now saying the deadline for retiring the previous generation passports will instead be August 31, 2022, reports WIC News.

The outlet cites the government as saying the decision is inspired by the need for the country to urgently join the league of nations which are all accelerating efforts to provide safe and secure travel ID documents for their citizens.

Launched in 2021, the new passports replace the previous machine-readable version, with the National Security and Home Affairs Minister Rayburn Blackmoore saying in a recent press conference that the document is designed with strong security and privacy features by the Canadian Bank Note Company Ltd., which is in charge of the project.

The Minister has also assure that his ministry is working on a plan to enable citizens go through the passport transition without major difficulties.

Bahrain unveils biometric passport plans

The country’s Interior Ministry Under-Secretary for Nationality, Passports and Residence Affairs, Shaikh Hisham bin Abdulrahman Al Khalifa, has hinted that the government is working on a project to introduce a biometric passport.

Speaking to Shura Council members during their weekly meeting recently, the Minister said the new passport is designed with a biometric chip which can store security-related information and will be scanned using Blue Line Technology, according to Zawya.

The Blue Line system can capture the face biometrics of passport holders as they approach a gate or turnstile, according to the Minister.

Facial recognition is planned for implementation at airports in a later phase of the project.

The plans have been endorsed by the Shura and Parliament, and now await the assent of King Hamad bin Isa Al Khalifa, the country’s leader.

Zimbabweans still to see effective issuance, fees too high

In Zimbabwe, citizens are still awaiting the effective issuance of the new biometric passport despite an announcement by the contractor that the process was to go full swing by mid this month.

A report by Pindula cites contractor Garsu Pasaulis as saying all was already in place for the full rollout of the passport “within the next three days.”

However, another report more than one week after by New Zimbabwe (on January 19) indicates that the process was yet to effectively start as only the old passports, which phase out in 2023, were still being issued to applicants.

News Day, in its own article, quotes deputy Information Minister as confirming that the effective issuance of the passports has not yet started due to logistics problems, but that Home Affairs Minister was to issue a full statement to give details on the matter.

The new biometric passport was launched in December by President Emmerson Mnangagwa in Harare.

Meanwhile, as Zimbabweans who have travel schedules anxiously await the full rollout of the new biometric passport, others have been raising concerns about the cost.

News Daily in an editorial comment argues that the new fees for obtaining the passport is way too high for an average Zimbabwean.

The amount for an ordinary passport in regular production time is fixed at $100, but the price doubles for an emergency production.

The comment states that while government should be commended for scrapping the proposed additional application fee of $20, the main fee itself remains high.

The article calls on the government not to be oblivious of the daily economic difficulties faced by Zimbabweans, and urges it to reconsider the fees which it calls “prohibitive especially for upcoming entrepreneurs who would want to travel out of the country.”

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