The Ministry of Internal Affairs says it is facing a shortage of passports in the country. The state minister for Internal Affairs Obiga Kania blames the shortage on the delay in the implementation of the e- passport (electronic passport) as was agreed upon by the East African community member states. The Ugandan passports is one the internationally legally recognized travel document and owning one is enshrined in the constitution. But from this Wednesday 14th June till early August, only a few applying for this document will be able to get one.
In a local daily, the directorate of immigration in the country, issued a statement indicating lack of ordinary or machine readable passports, in the country. “We are going to go to e-passports, then we are going to phase out these machine readable passports, so therefore there is no need to put an order for new passport books in March or April to cover the other period. We only ordered a number which will last up to about July. Because we expect by the end of July we shall be using fully e-passports ” the State Minister of Internal Affairs, Mr Obiga Kaina said.
With more Ugandans now interested in traveling out of the country in search for jobs and education among others, the immigration department says there is a sharp raise in the demand for passports the Minister said that “Suddenly there has been a surge of Ugandans going out of the country. You’ve heard of Ugandans going to the Middle East for jobs, you’ve heard of a lot of Ugandans going outside for business, and those going for studies. Therefore the stock which we has anticipated will last up to July, we’ve now realized will not necessarily run up to July “.
The cost of acquiring an ordinary passport is UGX 150,000 and UGX 300,000 for an express one, however the department says exceptions will be made for emergency cases. The immigration department has decided to ration the issuance of passports to mostly for people with medical cases, certified government officials, students who have urgent matters and finally any other emergency which they deem fit.
In March last year, the East African Community launched the electronic passport, where citizens of Uganda, Rwanda, Kenya, Burundi, Tanzania and South Sudan would start issuing electronic or machine readable passports (MRP). Issuing these e-passports was initially scheduled to start by 1st Jan 2017.
The new e-passports will be equipped with an electronic chip that is readable by airport machines across the world where the system is already implemented. In 2003, due to global security threats ICAO adopted the scheme for implementation of both MRPs and use of biometric identifiers in all of its 188 members. The passports are embedded with radio frequency identification chips that are machine readable and carry the passport holders information other than the bio data. In terms of apperance, the new passports will not be different from the existing ones except for the features in the ICAO guidelines. Last year, the Civil Aviation Authority (CAA) says that the infrastructure for electronic passport scanning at the airport is already in place and waiting for implementation.