Sources said Department of Immigration and Passport (DIP) signed an agreement with Malaysian firm IRIS International for registering fingerprints and publishing 30 million MRP. The work of 30 million passports ended in June last. Afterwards, data entry for MRP is not being done.

Officials said DIP did not inform the foreign ministry about the problem. So the ministry could not send any directives to the missions. However, through a circular, the missions announced suspension of passport services. On 28 June, Bangladesh embassy in Lebanon, and Bangladesh missions in Japan, Malaysia and Maldives this month, issued circulars announcing suspension of passport renewal.

Bangladeshi migrant Md Shahidul works in an electrical equipment factory in Malaysia. Speaking to Prothom Alo, he said he applied for renewal of his passport at Bangladesh high commission in Malaysia in the beginning of this year.

He was supposed to get new passport on 18 March. But he is yet to get it.

He said, "I don't know when I will get the passport. Many are also waiting for renewal of their passports.

Sources said the this problem of passports came to the notice of the foreign ministry in July the last. At the time a relation of a senior government official went to the Bangladesh mission in Washington for renewal of passport.

After several days, the person came to know there is no progress in passport renewal. The official requested the foreign ministry to solve the problem.

Several more Bangladesh missions abroad informed the foreign ministry about similar problems over passports. Afterwards the foreign ministry inquired about the matter.

A senior foreign ministry official said the home ministry told them that a decision has been taken to make 6 million more MRP by IRIS. Steps have been taken to pay the dues of IRIS. The problem will be solved soon.

Sources said Malaysian firm IRIS closed their office in Dhaka. So their dues have to be paid in foreign currency. In this regard necessary permission has to be taken from Bangladesh Bank.

Speaking to Prothom Alo, Bangladesh ambassador to Italy Shameem Ahsan said, "We are regularly contacting Dhaka about renewal of passports. Meanwhile, we have learnt that steps have been taken to solve the problem."

According to the foreign ministry, there are 80 missions in 60 countries. The missions issued 844,514 MRP in 2020. A huge number of people will fall in trouble if passport renewal remains suspended for a month. However, some missions said the crisis is over. Through a circular, Bangladesh embassy in US said they have been able to solve the problem over passports.

DIP officials were contacted about the latest situation. They, however, declined to make any official comment. Refugee and Migratory Movements Research Unit (RMMRU) founding chair professor Tasneem Siuddiqui said, "Such a problem of passport renewal is not new. It happened in the past. From past experience, it can be said there should be a prior idea about the amount of passports required. So it should not be difficult to take due preparation." She also said if any problem surfaces about a technological matter like passports, it should have been known earlier.

*This report, originally published in Prothom Alo print and online editions, has been rewritten in English by Rabiul Islam.

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