Biometric passports on the cards

By Mirudhula Thambiah

The Department of Immigration and Emigration will introduce biometric passports within this year.
The move follows a proposal made at the first Colombo team meeting by the Regional Immigration Liaison Officer Network (RILON) last Thursday.

Experts from Australia and Hong Kong are preparing feasibility reports on implementing biometric passports, said Immigration and Emigration Controller Chulananda Perera.

Introducing the ‘N’ series of passports, installing new equipment in the Documentation Examination Laboratory where the legality of passports and visas are examined and mainly used by airline officials and the CID, introducing an electronic travelling system and issuing visas online are the other suggestions and concepts submitted, Mr. Perera said, “We are rapidly working towards the practice of issuing visas online without delay,” he said.

Expanding the laws of immigration and emigration are in the discussion stage with the Ministry of Justice and the Attorney General’s Department, Mr. Perera added. Making the inaugural speech at the team meeting Mr. Perera said the 30 years of war with the LTTE saw criminal and terrorist elements abusing the Sri Lankan system to commit cross-border crimes and violations. Identity theft, passport forgeries, counterfeit visas, illegal crossing of borders both by air and sea to make bogus asylum claims have undermined our border and national security interests as well as security of countries in the region and beyond, he said.

He noted that although the LTTE was defeated, the involvement of the LTTE in trans-national organized crime was well documented in illicit trading of arms, narcotics, money laundering, human smuggling and trafficking in persons.

The Immigration Liaison Officers could maintain direct contacts with the authorities in the host country to improve exchange of information concerning flows of illegal immigrants.

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