By Sami Zaptia.
London, 29 February 2016:
The Passports, Nationality and Foreign Affairs Authority, part of the Ministry of Interior, has announced today that an extraordinary 150,000 Libyans registered online for a new blue-coloured e-passport since registration was reopened yesterday.
The Authority apologized and admitted that the online registration system did not actually operate from 9 am Sunday as was planned, but started working only just after 2pm lunchtime. It said that the system was initially overwhelmed by the surge in demand.
Nevertheless, in the three hours of operation, an unprecedented number of Libyans succeeded in registering themselves online for the next stage of obtaining a new passport with an extended validity of eight years – as opposed to just four years with the old Qaddafi era green handwritten passports.
Those who have successfully registered will receive notifications to turn up at their chosen local passports office for a photograph etc as of Sunday 6th March. They will be given a date in which to return and collect their new issue passports in a few weeks or months.
The Authority has said that it will try to clear up the backlog of applications pending from 2015.
It will be recalled that Passports Authority had halted accepting any further passports applications because it had runout of new passports.
Last week it had announced that half a million new passports would start arriving by early March.
The statement made no mention of previously announced plans for the start of issuing the new e-passports at Libyan embassies abroad for the diaspora.
The matter of the issuing of new biometric passports has caused much uproar in Libya as queues and backlogs at passport issuing offices have formed partly due to lack of capacity in human resource as well as raw material and equipment.
But the blockages are also caused by corruption as new passports are made available at prices of LD 1,500 and as high as LD 3,000 – as opposed to the official LD 55 cost.
The right and access to a new electronic passport in Libya is beyond just the principle of the right to having a passport, but is more of a practical necessity.
Beyond holidays and business trips, a valid passport is a necessity for healthcare abroad in countries like Tunisia and Jordan for most ordinary Libyans and Europe for the better off.
The details on the old Qaddafi-era Libyan passports were written by hand.