CONTINUED submission of forged documents, with changes being sought to age and name, for passport re-issuance to the Department of Immigration and Passports has stopped the authorities from making any changes in names, parents’ names and age, even in cases applicants need to make corrections, however small. The passport department has so decided based on repeated allegations of passport forgery levelled by foreign embassies in Dhaka and Bangladesh missions abroad. The situation has reached such a height that France’s ambassador in Dhaka, as New Age reported on Friday, recently visited the department’s office at Agargaon in Dhaka and threatened that they would stop issuing visas if they found a repeat of such changes in passports of visa applicants. The department receives such complaints mostly from missions of Malaysia, Italy and Turkey, among others. The department, as the passport investigation cell says, generally receives more than 100 requests for changes a day and several hundred requests have still been pending with the department which has prompted the authorities to make the decision at hand, causing sufferings to people who, in effect, have errors in their passport and need them to be corrected.
The passport department is reported to have received a re-issuance application with the applicant’s age being lowered by 10 years. A situation like this has prompted the department to issue an office order on March 7 on not entertaining random changes during the re-issuance of passports. Such events also tarnish the image of the department abroad and harm the acceptability of machine-readable passports, issued by the department, abroad. But this has also caused inconvenience to people seeking re-issuance of passports having small errors, which are visibly procedural mistakes, as the issues are held over by the department for a period longer than usual. An applicant, who applied for the re-issuance of his passport in December 2017, is still reported to be waiting as he wanted his surname, which was somehow dropped when his passport was issued, to be included during the re-issuance. The department has decided not to have effected random changes, which it thinks are ‘intentional’, but in practice people wanting to correct procedural mistakes also come to suffer. Although the department by no means should re-issue passports with ‘intentional’ changes being sought, it should immediately take note of the problem at hand and clearly define what constitutes random changes and what constitutes procedural errors so that people seeking re-issuance of passports would not suffer.
Passports relate to national security issues and the passport department must, therefore, be extra-cautious in re-issuing passports, especially when changes in information are sought. But this must not hold back applicants from having their passport re-issued when they need to have corrected the errors that crept in because of procedural problems. The department must also seek legal redress against any such intended falsification based on a fair and credible investigation. During school admission, it has been noticed that parents have the birth certificate of their children changed to lower the age. The government must look into if any such issues are happening in the issuance and re-issuance of passports.
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