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Biometric passports: progress in Nepal, Seychelles, ‘huge crowds’ in Bhutan

Biometric passports: progress in Nepal, Seychelles, ‘huge crowds’ in Bhutan

Biometric passport issuance is progressing at different rates in three countries this week. First to the Seychelles, which has unveiled a new biometric passport and related issuing system via a partnership with France’s IN Groupe.

The company has reportedly been working with the Seychelles government for more than 20 years, becoming a privileged partner, and has recently won the tender for the novel system.

The new contract also includes the supply of the national ICAO PKI and nPKD (Public Key Directory). Passports created via this agreement will contain an electronic chip in the ‘eCover’ incorporating biographical and biometric data and a digital signature.

Alain A. Volcere, principal secretary of immigration and civil status of Seychelles, told the press earlier this week the move should increase convenience for residents.

“The biometric passport solution, brought to us by the IN Groupe, will, without a doubt, take the travel experience of our citizens to a new level, allowing for greater convenience and access to a range of services.”

According to the official, incorporating enhanced security features in the passport booklet will also reduce identity fraud while boosting operational efficiency at border control points.

“The realization of this project will certainly go down as the country’s first major technological accomplishment in the post-Covid 19 era,” Volcere concludes.

The new biometric passport project comes weeks after the Seychelles government launched a digital ID platform from WISeKey for government and private sector applications.

Nepal celebrates first year since new passport launch

The Nepali Department of Passports (DoP) has issued a total of 933,293 biometric passports between November 17, 2021, and November 20, 2022, according to The Himalayan. The population is around 31 million.

A recent press release by the DoP also confirmed the government has implemented a provision for online revenue payments to provide such services to customers and a dedicated e-passport mobile app “to further systematize service delivery.”

Additionally, the department prompted the Central Investigation Bureau and Cyber Bureau of Nepal Police to initiate legal action against individuals involved in posting misleading information about e-passports and scammers trying to take advantage of the new system.

The Nepalese administration added that, while issuing the new passports, it has been focused on enhancing compliance with the international rules and regulations set by the ICAO and other relevant bodies.

The claims come roughly three months after cybersecurity experts called on the government to establish a specific regulatory framework for personal data protection.

Bhutan witnesses passport chaos

Meanwhile, in neighboring Bhutan, the Ministry of Foreign Affairs (MFA) passport division has been flooded with passport requests as the government struggled with issuance.

As per Kuensel’s reporting, roughly 1,000 passports still need to be collected from the division following the call to replace temporary travel documents with passports, which started on 1 December.

This has caused people to queue up for long periods of time as 200 passports a day were supposed to be released, with 50 in-person appointments scheduled per day in the country with a population over 700,000.

Commenting on the news, minister of foreign affairs Tandi Dorji said that only 10,000 passport booklets had been recently delivered to the country, as opposed to the 60,000 booklets in the first consignment in October.

Despite the shortages, the division said it intends to clear the backlog in ten days after the next consignment reaches the country next week. There are reportedly 1,869 verified passports ready for printing, and around 1,659 applications await verification.

The passport mayhem comes weeks after the Bhutanese government confirmed its national digital ID project was 77 percent complete, including the collection of biometric information.

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