The Ministry of Internal Affairs through the Directorate of Citizenship and Immigration Control (DCIC), is hosting the 29th International Civil Aviation Organization (ICAO) Workshop on verification of electronic machine-readable travel documents, public key infrastructure and the use of the ICAO Public Key Directory (PKD).
The meeting aims to guarantee secure travel of persons by foiling the use falsified travel documents such as passports.
The 88-member organization which regulates all travel documents across the member states, initiated the PKD, a database for all electronic travel documents.
The ICAO-PKD is a central repository for exchanging the information required to authenticate electronic Machine Readable Travel Documents (eMRTDs) such as ePassports, electronic ID cards and Visible Digital Seals.
The ICAO Workshop taking place in Uganda and Africa for the first time, comes at a time when Uganda and other countries on the continent are grappling with the rapid increase of fake passports, visas, and other travel documents.
In July this year, immigration officers at Entebbe International Airport netted two Senegalese Nationals in possession of 51 passports with forged Ugandan Visas.
This, however, is a drop in the ocean as falsification of travel documents increases by day.
The Director of Citizenship and Immigration Control, Maj Gen Apollo Kasiita Gowa (L), Permanent Secretary – Ministry of Internal Affairs, Lt Gen Joseph Musanyufu (C) and the ICAO-PKD Board Chairperson, Mario Wiesen (R) pose for a photo at the ICAO-PKD Workshop in Kampala on Tuesday, November 15, 2022.
While opening the Workshop in Kampala on Tuesday, the Permanent Secretary for the Ministry of Internal Affairs, Lt Gen Joseph Musanyufu said verification of travel documents is a very key factor in combating the use of fake documents.
“It helps to do away with falsified documents, it makes it possible to verify and certify all travel documents of all travelers, and it is for the security of all nations. As Immigration Department, we are interested in having genuine, verifiable travel documents at all border points all the time. As Uganda, we are happy to be part of this,” he said.
The ICAO-PKD Board Chairperson, Mario Wiesen said the PKD holds the cryptographic keys related to the authentication of e-passport information which cannot be falsified.
“The ICAO-PKD is all about security of traveling, making sure that the passports are genuine, that even when a passport is falsified, there is an electronic security that we provide because the there is a link with a certificate in our central database that cannot be faked,” he said.
Out of the 88 ICAO-PKD member countries, only 12 are African. They include; Nigeria, Mali, Cote D’Ivoire, Egypt, Togo, Rwanda, Sudan, Lesotho, Ghana, Cameroon, Zimbabwe and Uganda.
When Uganda won the bid to host the ICAO-PKD Board meeting, Wiesen said, they agreed to add a workshop to allow other countries in the region who are not yet members or members that have not yet implemented the full PKD infrastructure to learn more about it and understand better.
Uganda migrated from ordinary machine-readable passport to the electronic Passport Machine Readable Travel Documents.
The Permanent Secretary for the Ministry of Internal Affairs, Lt Gen Joseph Musanyufu speaking during the ICAO-PKD workshop on verification of electronic machine-readable travel documents in Kampala on Tuesday, November 15, 2022.
This followed the East African Community (EAC) Member countries decision to introduce the e-Passports on the backdrop of the 17th Ordinary Summit of the EAC Heads of State direction to the Partner States to commence issuance of the New East Africa e-Passport by January 1, 2017, and implement the phase out programme for the then machine readable East African and National Passports from 2018.
Uganda further plans to improve its e-Passport by adopting the polycarbonate bio-data page to match the standard recommended and agreed on by the EAC Member States. For this too, the country will rely on the support of ICAO.
According to Gen Musanyufu, the introduction of the electronic Passport Management System and joining the PKD platform by Uganda has created a foundation to further Government of Uganda’s other ICT Service Delivery Platforms in areas of Registration of Persons (Identity), integrated border management system to improve security and facilitation as required of ICAO Member States and the passport control.
“We applaud ICAO’s support to all partner states to attain these milestones and for the opportunity granted to host these events in East Africa-Uganda. For us this reaffirms Uganda’s serious commitment to the aviation, security sector, migration/identity management and their ability to contribute towards sustainable socio-economic development in ICAO compliant States,” he said.
In light of the above, Gen Musanyufu said Uganda is aware of the EAC e-Immigration Policy and the initiatives thereunder that led to the adoption of e-Passports, e-Visas and a further push for faster information sharing strategies to secure the region.
“Let us ride on this framework to join the ICAO PKD,” he said.