St. Kitts and Nevis (WINN); It has been revealed that more than 15,000 regular St. Kitts and Nevis passports and almost 100 diplomatic passports were issued without place of birth under the Denzil Douglas-led administration.
Prime Minister Dr. Timothy Harris made the announcement at a press conference Thursday (Mar 9).
“Based on records provided by the Canadian Bank Note some 15,197 regular passports, 91 diplomatic and 39 official passports were issued by the last government without the country of birth field.
“We couldn’t leave all those passports out there for an indefinite period of time still out there, because that would bring discredit to the legitimacy of those of you who have your passport with the country of origin field.”
Despite claiming it was not illegal to remove the country of birth field from passports, international pressures led to the Labour Party Administration recalling all such passports in December 2014. Persons were given until March 2015 to return the passports to have them replaced at the government’s expense.
Former Prime Minister Dr. Denzil Douglas said then that once the deadline had passed, any passports outstanding which did not show the country of birth of the passport holder would be invalidated.
On Thursday however, Prime Minister Harris stated that his administration will de deactivating all passports without the place of birth field and nationals would have to bear the cost of having them replaced.
“My government has taken the decision to deactivate all passports issued by the former government without the country of birth field. All such holders would have to re-apply for a new passport which will contain the relative country of birth field and they would pay the cost of the new passport.
“This is an imperative to safeguard the integrity of our passport to comply with international best practices and to satisfy our commitment to being a responsible member of the international community. I would want to remind citizens that to avoid inconveniences in their travel, they should ensure that their passport has some validity for at least six months before they make arrangements for travel.”
The federation experienced international scandal surrounding its diplomatic passports late in 2013 when Iranian Alizera Moghadam entered Canada with a St. Kitts and Nevis diplomatic passport under false pretense- a diplomatic passport he claimed he had bought from the then government; a claim they denied. The incident was believed to have caused the Canadian government to one year later revoke the visa waiver status of nationals using St. Kitts and Nevis passports to enter Canada.
Prime Minister Harris said the government has started reviewing the issuance of diplomatic passports under the former administration and has slowed down its own processing of such travel documents.
“What had developed in the system in large measure, as persons saw the looseness in the last regime in making the diplomatic passports available almost everybody began to come forward to say “I need one”; and we moved away from the strict practice, the protocols in relation to what kind of passport persons should have.
“As we speak we are reviewing that particular matter. We have therefore put a slow-down of the processing of that as we refine our own system.
“The diplomatic passport is the highest level and therefore it should be few and far between in terms of the procession if you are going to preserve the integrity of it and the dignity attached to it.”