High demand for e-passports among Gulf expatriates

But issuance moving at snail's pace

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Bangladesh missions in Gulf countries are having a difficult time in distributing electronic passports (e-passports) among expatriates, thanks to shortage of personnel in the said missions, poor technological support, and low human resources of the Department of Passport and immigration (DPI) in Dhaka.

Talking to Dhaka Tribune, some diplomats working in the Gulf countries said that the DPI needed to improve its services by speeding up the disbursement process without harassment.

Over 10 million Bangladeshis are working in the Gulf countries and sending over $14-15 billion home annually.

This a gigantic task of Bangladesh missions aboard, particularly in Gulf countries. Every mission requires enough human resources to replace machine readable passports (MRP) with e-passports. Expatriates are using both MRPs and e-passports, said a diplomat who works in a Gulf country.

Foreign missions need trained, trained and sufficient human resources, improved technological support and simplified rules and regulations before launching e-passports, he added.

While talking to the daily, the senior official also said that the DPI issues and re-issues passports in Bangladesh and sends the same to the Bangladesh missions abroad. Later, Bangladesh missions abroad issue passports among expatriate Bangladeshis.

"The delay in issuing or re-issuing passports among expatriate Bangladeshis will only strengthen putting the blame on Bangladeshi missions abroad. The passport seekers will not understand that we have a limited role in this regard. We will have to ensure a hassle-free system while introducing e-passport among expats,“ he also said.

Meanwhile, the Bangladesh mission in Muscat will start a pilot project of e-passport this week, said a diplomat.

“Initially we will introduce e-passports under a pilot project and will gradually scale it up to cover the entire Bangladesh communities living in Oman,'' she also said.

The government introduced e-passports in South Korea, Germany, the United States and Greece to cover expats under this system.

Bangladesh Ambassador to the USA M Shahidul Islam and Home Secretary of Security Services Division Md Mokabbir Hossain in Washington DC jointly inaugurated the e-passport services to cater to  the needs of Bangladeshi diaspora in the US in September last year.

M Shahidul Islam emphasized the effective coordination between the Department of Immigration and Passport (DIP) and the missions abroad for rendering optimum services to the Bangladesh diaspora.

The e-passport system was earlier inaugurated in the New York Consulate on 10 September and the Embassy of Bangladesh in Washington is the fourth in line after introducing it in Berlin, Seoul and Athens.

Some 120 countries have introduced e-passports, making Bangladesh the 119th country in the world to introduce e-passports.

Bangladesh has set up 69 passport offices in 64 districts, 33 immigration check-posts and passport and visa wings at 75 missions abroad aiming to provide passport, visa and immigration services to everyone,” said the DIP official.

Over the delayed deliveries and poor management, a director of DPI, said that the government requires to set up more passport offices in Dhaka to cope with rising applicants

He pointed out that his office had the capacity to receive 800-900 applications daily but it was now getting over 2,500 applications a day.

According to e-passport project officials, some 1.2 million e-passports have been issued since 2019.

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