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ICS says Cleared Huge Backlog of Passport Request

ADDIS ABABA – The Ethiopian Immigration and Citizenship Service (ICS) said it issued 646, 539 passports within six months, allowing the federal entity to clear a massive backlog of overdue requests.

The ICS saw its top leadership removed last year after the institution was hit with various scandals, This brought the institution’s operations to a standstill for months, causing passport applications to pile up.

The Service reportedly had more than 300,000 passport requests awaiting response when the former tourism minister Selamawit Dawit assumed the Director General position at the ISC.

Selamawit began her reign by placing the biggest passport booklet order in the agency’s history – 1.5 million – from a Paris-based manufacturing firm.

Over 1.1 passport booklets have since been brought in to address shortage and respond to the outstanding and new passport applications, the Director General said during a press briefing on ISC’s six-month performance Thursday.

Simultaneously, she said, the institution took regulatory, structural and procedural reforms that were meant to unravel a nest of corruption and inefficiency that had the agency in a chokehold.

These measures helped the federal immigration agency to enhance its daily processing capacity by fivefold, issuing 10,000 passports from 2000 a day to applicants via ISC’s various offices.

Accordingly, the ICS reported its headquarters in Addis Ababa issued 260, 371 new passports while regional branch offices processed 269,358 more of the documents in the past six months.

The agency also issued 35,394 passports to respond to urgent renewal requests and processed 81,416 additional passports to Ethiopians living abroad and distributed them through embassies and missions.

In total, the director general said the Service responded to 646, 539 passport requests in the first half of this year.

Currently, there is no backlog of applications, Director General Selamawit said, thanks to the ISC enhanced processing capacity and its employees working with extended hours and over the weekends to resolve the problem.

New applicants will receive passports on the appointment date given to them, beginning March 24, the Director General added.

Apart from clearing its backlog, the ICS also took legal measures against bad actors in its effort to weed out corruption infiltrating at every level of the institution.

The accusations include smuggling out documents for sale to fraudsters producing forged passports. A total of 204 perpetrators were brought to justice in the past six months, the Director General pointed out.

In the long term, the ICS seeks to prevent forgery and improve its efficiency by introducing an electronic passport system in the country.

The ICS signed an agreement with Toppan Gravity Ethiopia, a securities printing company jointly owned by Ethiopian Investment Holdings (EIH) and the Japanese firm Toppan, late last year.

The director general said her Office has already placed an order for the e-passport designed with advanced security features with a plan to unleash it within a year.