It may not be a matter of urgency, but soon all travellers streaming through airports including Entebbe will be required to have Machine Readable Passports (MRP).
The International Civil Aviation Organization (ICAO) set 2015 as deadline for all its member states to upgrade their passports to Machine -Readable forms.
Ignie Igunduura, Civil Aviation Authority (CAA) Manager Public Affairs, says that once this is adopted, airport security around the world will be able to access information on any traveller legging off say at Entebbe, at the click of a button.
Igunduura points out that the guideline is aimed at integrating all aviation information to curb unlawful interferences and crime in aviation.
In 1995 ICAO asked all its member states to incorporate specific security and electronic features in Machine Readable Passports (MRP). ICAO first deadline where all countries were supposed to have begun to issue MRP was April 1, 2010.
ICAO stipulates that all non-Machine Readable Passports must expire before November 24, 2015.
Igunduura explains that neither of these deadlines requires the issuance of a biometric or e-passports, but focus solely on machine readability to make secure travel across the globe.
Speaking to press Acting Commissioner for Immigration Control Anthony Namara said the Directorate of immigration is aware of the required changes, and will comply with ICAO specifications to gradually phase out Ugandan non machine readable passport to MRP’s.
Jacob Siminyu, Public Relations Officer at the Immigration, pointed out that MRP’s were becoming an international norm, and Uganda cannot be left out in the due process, it will have to upgrade.
Commenting on the issue Director East African Affairs Lawrence Mujuni said that although at the EAC level, immigration chiefs were already pursuing the switch from the ordinary to an electronic passport, it was not pressure from the ICAO deadline, but rather specified in the EAC common market protocol.
There are approximately 81 countries that are issuing electronic, chip-based biometric e-passports that are in compliance with ICAO requirements.
Uganda was first elected to ICAO council in 2007, and won the seat again in 2010.