Remarks delivered at the launch of ePassport and ePassport Issuing and Control System on Tuesday, 17 July 2018 by Dr the Rt. Honourable Keith Mitchell, Prime Minister
- Your Excellency Dame Cecile La Grenade, Governor General
- Ministers of Government and other Parliamentarians
- Mrs Beryl Isaac, Cabinet Secretary
- Mr Sylbert Prescod, Chairman of the Conference of Churches
- Permanent Secretaries
- Edvin Martin, Acting Commissioner of Police
- Mr Alex Klein, Director of Business Development, Canadian Bank Note Company
- Other Senior Government Officials and Members of the Royal Grenada Police Force
- Members of the Media
- Distinguished Ladies and Gentlemen
Today marks a significant milestone, not only for the Immigration and Passport Department but for the wider Ministry of National Security and indeed, for Grenada on the whole.
The launch of our ePassport and ePassport Issuing and Control System represents a coming of age for us in Grenada. ePassports are being increasingly used around the world because they offer greater security features, allowing countries like ours, to engage in more efficient border control practices.
You would recall that Grenada was a pioneer among our fellow CARICOM countries in 2001, when we transitioned from handwritten to machine-readable passports – we were the first in CARICOM to do so.
Friends, we are pleased to note that Grenada is only the 6th Caribbean country to introduce ePassports. We take great pride in joining our Caribbean neighbours – Antigua and Barbuda, the Bahamas, Barbados, St Kitts/Nevis and St Vincent and the Grenadines and indeed, the many other countries around the world which have already introduced this concept.
We also look forward to seeing more of our Caribbean brothers and sisters adopt the new technology, so that together, we can work to secure our borders while facilitating ease of travel among our nationals and visitors alike, which importantly, will help to further deepen our integration process.
Sisters and brothers, I am a staunch advocate, not simply of science and technology, but its adaptability to our daily lives. The introduction of the ePassport provides further proof that Government has embraced science and technology, using it wherever possible to create greater efficiency in our operations and to improve the services we provide to the general public.
The new ePassport is similar in appearance to a regular passport but the unique characteristic is the chip that is embedded in the cover. This chip stores your biometric data – it provides for facial recognition and other information that is unique only to you. From a national security standpoint, the ePassport significantly reduces the potential for forgery.
Even as we forge ahead with the use of science and technology, we must balance that with the need to ensure security of the data we use and share electronically. Your biometric data stored on the chip in your ePassport will be protected through Public Key Infrastructure (PKI), which allows for the secure transfer of information.
Maintaining the integrity and security of our national passport is also critical given the significant emphasis placed on our Citizenship by Investment (CBI) Programme. In attracting citizens by investment, we must ensure that the passports we offer as part of the CBI benefits package, represent the most secure form of travel document—and that brothers and sisters, is what we will be getting with the new ePassports.
The introduction of the new passports required a significant investment, but it is one that my government viewed as being worthwhile. Government has invested US$3.5 million into this project. You would recall, that last August, we signed the contract with Canadian Bank Note Company Limited for this project. The relationship with CBN is a longstanding one – CBN was also the company that facilitated Grenada’s transition from handwritten to machine-readable passports in 2001. We are fully confident that they are capable of delivering a quality product, in line with the best international standards.
Ladies and gentlemen, brother and sisters, in addition to government’s investment in the project, we are also subsidising the cost of the new passports, at this time. The ePassports will be offered at a cost of $175, the lowest cost among our OECS neighbours. Government is absorbing more than 50% of the cost. However, if we are to maintain and improve our fiscal situation, this cannot continue indefinitely, and we will be revisiting this in the very near future.
Ladies and gentlemen, we have not only focused on the technological and security aspects of the new passport, significant emphasis has been placed on ensuring that our passports generate a sense of national pride. The pages of our new ePassport features several iconic images that are distinctly Grenadian – images that depict scenes from Hillsborough on our beautiful sister island, Carriacou; our brand-new Parliament building; the Maurice Bishop International Airport; the Kirani James Athletics Stadium and our Father of Independence, Sir Eric Matthew Gairy.
In upgrading and modernising systems, we must not forget the human element. In preparation for the launch of our new passports, Immigration and Passport Officers have been engaged in a series of training sessions.
In closing ladies and gentlemen, I will confirm that all passports issued henceforth by the Immigration and Passport Department will be ePassports. All machine-readable passports currently in your possession will expire on and before 16 July 2023.
Just yesterday, Her Excellency, the Governor General and I had our photos taken and our applications processed for our new ePassports. It is with great pleasure that I now present the first diplomatic ePassport to Her Excellency, Dame Cecile La Grenade.