By Aaron Humes: The humble passport is the literal gateway to the world, offering both ease of travel and a sense of belonging.
But in recent years it has proven more difficult to get than to use, with long lines a feature at the Immigration Department’s primary offices in Belize City and especially Belmopan.
No more, says Minister of Foreign Affairs and Immigration Eamon Courtenay, at least after October 24, the project date for the launch of the new electronic passport system: “I expect that those lines will disappear dramatically because you will be able to get your passport in your own district, there will be no need to come to Belmopan or Belize City so that will disappear by and large. The process will be an online application so you are applying online, you get an appointment and you go and deal with the passport so it’s not just a matter of pulling up on a Wednesday or a Thursday so it’s much more organized and structured so we expect that with modernization that corruption, petty corruption will disappear.”
Courtenay expressed his regrets at the pass to which the system had come, but will the new passports cost more? Possibly, as he explained: “…there’s a debate, you know how these things are, people are living in very difficult times; is that an appropriate increase? The flip side of it is that we pay $20 million, we have to recover that money. Well, you could recover it over a longer period of time, so the long and short of it is we will settle on a price that Cabinet believes is reasonable having regard to the current circumstances and the need to recover the investment.”
Legislation to buttress the new system is also being worked on, but the bottom line is that, according to Courtenay, “It will be a safe, efficient process, the passport will be fully secure, the biometrics will be embedded in the chip and there will be no more Citizen Kims.”