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Govt speaks on traditional passports

Nthatuoa Koeshe

THE government has called on holders of old passports to surrender them to the Ministry of Home Affairs where they will be issued with electronic passports for free.

The government began phasing out the old passports in 2011 and they will no longer be accepted for use with effect from next year.

Recently the government said that holders of old passports with the prefixes RA, RB, SA and DA should start applying for electronic passports as part of efforts to improve the country’s security.

The Home Affairs Director for Passport Services, Mpiko Rafono, told the Sunday Express that the electronic passports would help improve the country’s security which was potentially under threat from people of different nationalities who possessed the old Lesotho passports.

“People should start applying for new electronic passport starting from July to December this year because we have found that some people who are not Basotho are holders of the old traditional passport,” Mr Rafono said.

Mr Rafono explained that an electronic passport, also known as biometric passport, looks like a normal passport but it has an electronic chip that contains the particulars of the holder.

“The electronic passport bears the biometric details of the bearer, including their fingerprints or the iris, which are all features unique to an individual.”

He further said the use of the electronic passports would eliminate cases of corruption where Home Affairs officers have been accused of accepting bribes from underserving or foreign applicants.

“The system we use now is integrated and for one to have a passport, they must have a birth certificate, an identity card and then a passport.”

“For one to have a birth certificate there are certain procedures that have to be followed and these procedures will not allow a person who is not a Mosotho to possess a Lesotho passport.”

The information contained on the electronic passport is also contained in the database of the issuing authority. As such, a passport holder cannot beat the system by making multiple applications as has been the case in Lesotho over the years.

An applicant cannot claim that their passport has expired when it is still valid because the system will be able to instantly retrieve the information from the database.

The use of biometric information to link a person to a passport serves the dual role of detecting counterfeit or manipulated documents and confirming a person’s identity.

A recent report by ACI Worldwide, an IT company that provides payment systems for the world’s leading financial firms, says apart from improving the detection of forged travel documents, a primary benefit of electronic passports is automated passenger clearance at border control points.

In such situations, the report said, a passenger presents the travel document to an automated reader device, which reads their biographical information and biometric data from the contactless chip or a central database.

“Then, when the passenger’s facial, fingerprint or iris image is captured in the reading system, the stored biometric image is compared to the one presented. If the images match, then the traveller passes through immigration without interacting with an immigration officer,” the report said.

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