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22 January, 2019 12:46:07 AM / LAST MODIFIED: 22 January, 2019 01:21:41 PM
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E-passports unlikely before June

DEEPAK ACHARJEE, Dhaka
E-passports unlikely before June

The government plan to introduce e-passports from this month is all but certain to be deferred by about six months as German company Veridos GmbH, assigned for implementing the project, is unlikely to supply new booklets before June this year. The delay in getting e-passports may lead to crisis of existing machine readable passport (MRP) booklets for issuing new passports from May this year as the current stock will run out in March, sources in Department of Immigration and Passport (DIP) told The Independent. German passport producer Veridos GmbH was supposed to introduce e-passports in Bangladesh by the 19th of January this year under an agreement signed with DIP on July 19 last year.

The project titled ‘Introduction of E-Passport and Automated Border Control Management in Bangladesh’ will cost the Tk 4,569 crore. DIP officials conceded that there was no sign that the much-talked-about project would be implemented immediately and “the DIP hopes to introduce the e-passports in June this year”.

The local sub-agent of Veridos GmbH, Mustafa R Islam, told The Independent last week that it was impossible to introduce e-passports before June.

“There was a delay in the payment of a certain amount of money to our company on the part of the DIP. That’s why the implementation of the project as per the agreement has been delayed,” he said.

“A letter of credit (LC) for a component of the project would be opened this month,” he added.

A critical shortage of passports would arise if the DIP does not introduce e-passports within April. Currently, there are around 10 lakh machine readable passport (MRP) booklets in stock at the DIP godowns.

As DIP officials explained, at least five lakh MRPs are currently delivered every month to

the passport holders at home and abroad. Project Director (PD) of ‘Introduction of E-Passport and Automated Border Control Management in Bangladesh’, Brig. Gen. Saidur Rahman Khan, told The Independent that they plan to visit Germany this February to test the production of e-passports.

“If we are satisfied with the test results of the production of e-passports, we will then ask the German company to take further steps,” he said.

“We have to do more work like set up equipment, install software and establish data centres at the e-passport assembly plant in the city’s Uttara locality. At the same time, we have to set up e-gates at the airports and land ports so that the e-passports can be used. Hence, we need more time to complete the works,” he said.

The PD of the e-passport project disclosed that one or two months are required to train the DIP officials and staffers for producing the e-passports and handling these in the proper manner at the exit and entry points of the relevant ports.

Sources said the authorities of Veridos GmbH had proposed taking the prints of four fingers instead of 10 fingers along with other security features to make e-passports during the visit of a high-powered delegation of DIP to Germany in December last year. However, the delegation rejected this proposal. Its members asked the firm to adopt the required security features as per the agreement.

The then director-general of the DIP, Maj. Gen. Md Masud Rezwan, and chief executive officer (CEO) of Veridos GmbH, Hans Wolfgang Kunz, had signed the agreement in favour of their respective organisations. Under the mega project, worth Tk 4,569 crore, the DIP will start issuance of e-passports instead of MRPs with a 10-year validity.

A memorandum of understanding (MoU) was signed with the German company during Prime Minister Sheikh Hasina’s visit to that country in February 2017. Under the agreement, a passport booklet factory will be set up in Dhaka’s Uttara, where a six-storey printing building of the DIP has been constructed.

As part of the proposed project, three crore e-passports would be produced and distributed among the existing owners of MRPs in the country.

Under the project, the German company will set up necessary equipment at all Bangladesh missions abroad and all passport offices in the country.

At the same time, it will set up 50 e-gates at as many immigration points at all international airports, seaports and land ports in the country.

The e-passport will be a biometric passport containing detailed features of the holder. It will have a microchip containing biometric information and the holder’s name, date of birth and other biographic information.

At present, a passport holder has to cough up Tk 3,000 as fees for a normal (30-day) MRP and Tk 6,000 for an emergency (seven-day) MRP. DIP sources said they have issued 2.36 crore MRPs till date after these were introduced in April 2010. At least 118 countries have already introduced e-passports. These include India (only for diplomats and officials), China, Malaysia and the UAE.

SR

 

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Editor : M. Shamsur Rahman

Published by the Editor on behalf of Independent Publications Limited at Media Printers, 446/H, Tejgaon I/A, Dhaka-1215.
Editorial, News & Commercial Offices : Beximco Media Complex, 149-150 Tejgaon I/A, Dhaka-1208, Bangladesh. GPO Box No. 934, Dhaka-1000.

Editor : M. Shamsur Rahman
Published by the Editor on behalf of Independent Publications Limited at Media Printers, 446/H, Tejgaon I/A, Dhaka-1215.
Editorial, News & Commercial Offices : Beximco Media Complex, 149-150 Tejgaon I/A, Dhaka-1208, Bangladesh. GPO Box No. 934, Dhaka-1000.

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