More than 65,000 applications for electronic passports and machine-readable passports remained pending with the Immigration and Passport Department for ‘basic check clearance’ due to mismatched data with national identification numbers or other basic information, causing suffering to applicants.
Only 10 personnel, according to the Immigration and Passport Department, are presently working to resolve thousands of such cases, most of which involve correction, the submission of false or incorrect information, or the concealment or omission of the necessary information.
The worst affected applicants were those who sought to change or correct their information because the e-passport software flags even the smallest inaccuracy or mismatch, and hiding information about previously issued or lost passports made it even more difficult to obtain a new one.
Talking to New Age, many applicants from Dhaka and outside Dhaka, however, said that neither the regional nor the DIP head office in Dhaka provided them with the required guidance or assistance to resolve their issues or obtain their passports hassle-free.
Officials at Agargaon regional office in Dhaka said that they receive an average of 500 complaints daily and most of the cases are pending with ‘basic check clearance’ or cases related to the automated background investigation system.
Rumama Azad was seen in a queue in front of the regional passport office in Agargaon with her two daughters.
I have been coming here again and again since March 9, but I am yet to see my problem solved,’ she told New Age.
She said that her father’s name was Rafikul Alam Md Israil Azad, but she later dropped Rafikul Alam from her passport, though her NID was prepared with the full name of her father.
‘I have changed information with NID by submitting my SSC and HSC certificates, but it does not work,’ she said.
Like her, Arman Howlader said he applied for a passport on November 8, 2021, and was supposed to get it by November 29, 2021, but he was yet to get it.
When he approached the passport office, he came to know that it was not delivered as he did not mention the previous one’s number.
‘I lost the passport in 2018 and I have no number for it. What should I do?’ he said with frustration at the information desk.
Rejaul Karim of Saidpur in Nilphamari was seen waiting in another queue in front of the office of Agargaon regional office assistant director Md Yousuf.
He said that he wanted to change Rejaul from Rezaul written in the immediate passport, but he could not submit his application.
Rejaul said that he had already made the necessary corrections but was facing difficulties when he tried to change his date of birth in accordance with the certificate.
Apart from applications submitted in Bangladesh, many expatriates were also facing similar problems with their applications submitted in European countries, especially Italy and Spain.
On Sunday, many expatriates staged a demonstration in front of the passport office seeking quick delivery of their passports.
The home ministry on December 9, 2021, allowed the applicants to correct the information on their passports and the DIP allowed expatriates over six months to make any corrections on their passports.
DIP headquarters sources said as of October 17, 2021, they had 65,238 applications pending for basic check clearance.
But the DIP later stopped the provision for the expatriates, delaying passport delivery with necessary corrections.
A ruling party woman leader was spotted at the Agargon headquarters on Monday requesting the authorities to change the information of an acquaintance living in Italy and provide the passport as soon as possible.
A project implementation officer said it was not doable by his office.
Md Yousuf, assistant director of the Agargaon regional office, said that applicants with proper documents face hardly any delay because the software reads the information readily and the passport goes for printing after cross-examination of existing data.
He said that the issues arise when the application is submitted with changes, no matter how minor.
He said that every day they receive over 700 cases with mismatched data alone in the Agargaon regional office, but the DIP has only 10 employees in all its offices to deal with the technical issues.
As the passport office gets overcrowded, many brokers, with the help of Ansar members at the office, often approach applicants to complete their application-submission process for money.
Ommey Salma Tanzia, the acting director general at DIP, admitted the acute shortage of manpower at the department, which provides service through 69 offices across the country and 18 other offices abroad.
She told New Age that the government had made a move to set up another office in Agargon just to continue passport delivery without any hassle and had also decided to set up offices in Motijheel and Basila amid an increasing number of applications.
According to e-passport project officials, some 4,935,153 e-passports have been issued since 2019, while 3,22,00,196 MPR were issued until September 30.
– Article originally published on New Age