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» GUEST RUNDOWNS » OVER 830,000 PASSPORTS ISSUED TO JAMAICANS IN THE PAST FIVE YEARS, DECLARES SECURITY MINISTER!

OVER 830,000 PASSPORTS ISSUED TO JAMAICANS IN THE PAST FIVE YEARS, DECLARES SECURITY MINISTER!

 (L) BUNTING… attributed increase to demand for multiple identifications by commercial enterprises and money transfer agencies. (R) A Jamaican passport—

THE Passport, Immigration and Citizens Agency (PICA) issued approximately 830,000 passports to Jamaicans over the last five years.

Minister of National Security Peter Bunting made the disclosure recently in the House of Representatives, in a statement responding to questions raised by the Opposition spokesman on the portfolio, Derrick Smith.

The Opposition expressed concern about an increase in 2014/15 over 2013/14, of close to 50,000 passports issued by the agency.The statement, tabled in the House of Representatives by Bunting, showed the following figures over the last five-year period: 134,105 passports issued in 2010/11; 138,773 issued in 2011/2012; 150,777 issued in 2012/13; 177,243 issued in 2013/14; and huge jump in 2014/15 to 227,510.

Derrick Smith

Derrick Smith

However, the 227,000 included in Bunting’s statement for 2014/15 was 23,000 less than the 250,000 which was attributed to chief executive officer of PICA, Jennifer McDonald, in October, when she announced a 28 per cent increase in the number of passports processed during 2014/15, compared to 2013/14.

McDonald also announced that PICA processed a total of five million arriving and departing passengers at the island’s airports, during 2014/15. She attributed the increase to improvements in performance, due to new measures implemented to boost service delivery and efficiency of employees.

Ed Bartlett

Edmund Bartlett

Asked by Opposition MP Edmund Bartlett what he felt was responsible for the “phenomenal” increase in the numbers for 2014/15, Bunting said his view was that it reflected two things: (i) an increasing demand for the use of multiple national identifications by commercial enterprises, as well as by money transfer agencies; and, (ii) and, “as people become more prosperous and more accustomed to travelling”, more people will need passports.

Asked by Leader of the Opposition Andrew Holness whether he felt that there was a likelihood that international authorities will require that Jamaican join sole use of E-passports (biometric) in the future, Bunting said he was not aware of any such requirement. However, he said that he suspected that, over time, as technology evolves and the use of E-passports expand beyond the current “exclusive group of countries”, it will be raised to reflect improvements in the technology.

But he explained that an E-passport system would take at least two years to implement, which would exhaust the current stock of Jamaican passports.

Opposition Leader Andrew Holness

Opposition Leader Andrew Holness

Bunting also explained that the current stock of Jamaican passports is “a machine readable passport, which has the face as a biometric feature”. He said that this was fully compliant with International Civil Aviation Organization (ICAO) standards. However, he confirmed that the newer generation of biometric passports called E-passports have additional biometrics, including fingerprints and iris scans imbedded on a computer chip.

The price of a regular adult passport were increased from $4,500 to $6,500 while the passport for a minor was increased from $2,700 to $4000 earlier this year. There were also adjustments to other services provided by PICA. The adjustments triggered days of protest demonstrations at the PICA offices resulting in an extension of the deadline.

— By Balford Henry

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