Police verification of passport seekers

Dhaka,  Sun,  24 September 2017
Published : 22 Aug 2017, 20:34:36

Police verification of passport seekers

The suggestion by Transparency International Bangladesh (TIB) for doing away with the 'verification' of passport seekers by the Special Branch (SB) of the Police, would, in all likelihood, be endorsed by most people. There is hardly any reason for explaining what has prompted the anti-graft watchdog to make such a recommendation. Barring some exceptions, all those who apply for passports under the prevailing circumstances, can rarely escape the hassles involved in the so-called police verification. The SB personnel engaged in the verification work are always found to be very demanding.  Thus, the scrutiny of individuals by police personnel is generally viewed as the most difficult part of the process involved in getting a passport.  

The findings of the study report made public Monday last are thus hardly any different from the real-life experience of passport seekers. However, the troubles that the common people encounter at the passport offices have somewhat eased in recent years. But the difficulties are far from over. Middlemen do still dominate the entire process of passport issuance. Such dominance is in place, primarily because of the support the middlemen get from a section of unscrupulous officials in the passport offices. 

In this context, the TIB's suggestion to scrap the system of verification done by the SB people, however, deserves a critical scrutiny for security reasons. Every citizen has the right to have a passport. But it is also the responsibility of the state to ensure that only the genuine citizens get passports and people with dubious track records, in terms of safety and security, are debarred from owning the same. Understandably, there has to be a sound scrutiny of individual passport seekers. In the case of Bangladesh, it is all the more necessary for the presence of a large number of Rohingya Muslim refugees. There are stories galore that many Rohingyas could manage Bangladeshi green passports and jobs in the Middle Eastern countries. Some of them earned bad name for Bangladesh through their involvement in criminal activities in those countries despite the fact they are not the Bangladesh citizens. 

The issue of domestic as well as international security gets much more importance these days because of the rising tide of militancy across the world. Thus, the government cannot be oblivious of the need for scrutiny of an individual's past while issuing him a passport. The biometrics system can be of help in this regard. Since the involvement of the police in the verification work has created problems for passport seekers, the government might explore some other ways for ensuring the much-needed scrutiny of passport seekers. 

There should be no reason to look at the ongoing system of police verification of passport seekers in isolation. The hassles that the people encounter in getting passports are the manifestations of a deep-rooted corrupt system that has been eating into the vitals of the nation for decades after decades. So, one can hardly expect a perfect verification system under the prevailing circumstances. Yet the government needs to devise a better and hassle-free method of verifying the details of passport-seeking individuals.
Editor : A.H.M Moazzem Hossain
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