In his welcoming remark, Cadet Inspector Saidou A.M. Bah, Public Relation Officer (PRO) of Immigration, said the new Biometric Passport will no doubt go a long way in adding to the integrity and security of this Gambia national traveling document. He said among the important things that the Biometric Passport can do is that it facilitates the process of visa application to travel to USA, Europe and Saudi Arabia. He added that it is highly secured to protect against any form of forgery or identity theft.
Mr. Baboucarr Mboob, the Director General of GID, said this machine readable passport was launched by The Gambia ten years before it is recommended by the body responsible for all international travelling documents, the International Civil Avaition Organisation (ICAO). “Annex 9 of the Convention on ICAO, that is international standard and recommended practice, has clearly stated on the said articles that all contracting states should start issuing machine readable passport with effect from the 1st of April 2010 and which The Gambia has started since 2000, meaning we are perfectly in order,” said DG Mboob.
The Immigration DG disclosed that the Biometric Passport has also some key peculiar features which apparently will vindicate and secure it from all forms of fraudulent and other unscrupulous alteration.
DG Mboob said the Biometric Passport will not only be issued to nationals in the Gambia but also at Gambian embassies in such places as Washington DC, Abuja, Belgium, London and Madrid.
He added that the machines will be stationed at entry points within the country, especially the Airport, to facilitate the faster movement of people by using the E-Gate Passport Machine to avoid long queuing.
A representative of ARICARD, the Belgium based company which was contracted the work, said under a build, operate and transfer agreement, all equipment and transfer of know how will go to the Gambia government at the end of the contract.
He said AFRICARD will be training around 100 Immigration officers and producing 40,000 electronic passports every year. He said the capturing of finger prints and scanning of the iris will be performed on every passport produced and that the project covers the biometric enrolment and document personalisation. He disclosed that they will also deliver an automatic identity control at the airport.
Mr. Ousman Sonko, the Minister of the Interior, for his part, said the introduction of the first ever Biometric Passport for the Gambia is being done at an appropriate time when issues of border control have been more essential in the fight against trans-national crime.
In her launch statement, the Vice President of the Gambia, Madame Isatou Njie Saidy, speaking on behalf of the president, said the GID in partnership with ARICARD would expend every effort not only to enhance the security and durability of the Biometric Passport but to further ensure that only eligible Gambians are issued with such a national document of great importance and national pride.
She added that the GID should not be only part of the issuing but they should also be part of the production so that in the event where AFRICARD leaves then they can be able to continue with the production.