Seychelles took a step forward toward introducing electronic biometric passports after signing a contract with the French company IN Groupe.
IN Groupe specialises in the production of secure documents like identity cards and passports and for the past 15 years has delivered passport booklets to Seychelles.
The contract was signed by the Minister for Internal Affairs, Errol Fonseka, and the Vice-President for Internal Sales of IN Groupe, Walter Groppi, recently.
Fonseka said that the introduction of an electronic biometric passport in Seychelles is expected to raise the level of security at borders.
“Naturally it will help in ensuring visitors and ourselves, movement of people through our border is enhanced, is faster and sleeker, but above all the security element of the biometric passport allows us to enhance our border control,” said Fonseka.
“Seychelles is developing its financial centre and we are looking at our border security, at our export as a country that really needs the high standards when we trade and deal with other countries. Having the biometric passport provides another source of this high standard that we look forward to,” he continued.
A biometric passport is embedded with an electronic chip that contains biometric information including the holder’s biological information, facial recognition, fingerprint and additional information also featured on the passport’s data page.
An additional element in the electronic chip is the digital signature, an important feature that provides the link to the issuing authority.
The principal secretary for the Department of Immigration and Civil Status, Alain Volcere, told the reporters that the switch to biometric passports will place Seychelles in a better position to negotiate for VISA waivers.
He said that as Seychelles is a member of the Public Key Directory put in place by the International Organisation for Civil Aviation (ICAO). “When a foreign-passport holder goes through our system, we will know within the space of 10 seconds whether the passport has been tampered with, cloned or issued by the right authority.”
Volcere added that “a biometric passport system will thus help us to elevate our security levels considering the prevalence of criminality in the world today, so it is important that we know the identities of persons coming in and for access control at the airport. Therefore, it is a significant step in border control management in Seychelles, and we will see its many fruits in the future.”
The new biometric passport expects to contain 48 pages instead of 32 like in the current passport. Furthermore, the biometric passport will have a lifespan of 10 years, up from five currently. These changes will apply to all three categories of passports – regular, official, and diplomatic – that are issued in Seychelles, an archipelago in the western Indian Ocean.
With discussions still ongoing on how the transition will be made, the new system is expected to start operating by the end of 2022.
Seychelles’ passport is currently ranked as the most powerful in Africa and holds 29th place globally in terms of ease of travel to other countries.