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Weapons of Mass Destruction (WMD)

UN Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs

IRAQ: New high-tech passports unpopular with locals

BAGHDAD, 12 December 2005 (IRIN) - A plan by the interior ministry to introduce a new generation of high-tech passports, ostensibly aimed at curbing the influx of insurgents into the country, has received mixed reactions amongst Iraqis.

“It will only bring more expenditure of time and money,” said Diar Ibraheem, a resident of the capital Baghdad.

Zeid Baker, a Baghdad shopkeeper, agreed.

“It’s not the right way to ensure security,” he said. “It’s just forcing Iraqis to pay more money to the government, which won’t be used to our benefit.”

Hala Abdul-Kader, a mother of three, resented what she saw as constant and superfluous demands of the government for new documentation.

“I got passports for my family two months ago, and now I have to buy new ones and spend lots of money I don’t have,” she said. “They decide these things as often as they change their clothes – it shows their incompetence in not making good decisions the first time.”

Baker complained: “We’ve been changing our passports since 2003 without any results.”

According to interior ministry statements, the decision to issue a new generation of passports, announced earlier this month, followed the capture of dozens of foreign insurgents bearing counterfeit documents. Many of these included Iraqi passports and ID cards.

“We’re sure the new system will…prevent terrorists from entering our country using Iraqi passports, because these will be much more secure and of a higher quality,” said Muhammad Mounir, a senior ministry official.

He added: “Iraqis will…thank us for the benefits.”

The last generation of national passports was only printed last year, but interior ministry officials say they were easily forged.

New passports will contain iris scans, thumbprints, personal signatures, special codes and seals, “making it impossible for insurgents to forge them,” explained Mounir.

According to defence ministry sources, some of the forged passports were later discovered to have been produced by elements within the interior ministry’s passport-control department.

“It’s a shame that government employees are capable of betraying their brothers for a little money,” said Lt Col Hisham Hussein, a senior interior ministry official.

An internal investigation into the affair is said to be ongoing.

Earlier this week, an IRIN journalist was offered an Iraqi passport for US $500 by people with connections to the interior ministry.

Themes: (IRIN) Governance



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