‘Grave concerns’ over Cayman passport changes

UK wants to control overseas territories passport distribution

 The United Kingdom has set a deadline of December 2014 for the “repatriation of passport printing” to Britain, a move that could – given certain circumstances – lead to the elimination of British Overseas Territories passports, including Cayman’s. 

“This will mean that, after that date, the Cayman Islands and the other [overseas territories and Crown dependencies] will not be able to issue our own passports, as we have done for all these years,” Premier Alden McLaughlin said Friday.  

Mr. McLaughlin said the Cayman Islands has rejected any options involving replacing its passports with U.K. passports. He indicated that the territory does not like any of the proposals regarding issuing new passports with biometric identification chips from the U.K. Currently, Cayman Islands passports issued locally do not contain biometric ID chips.  

During a meeting of the Joint Ministerial Council this month, the U.K. presented its territories with four options regarding the issuance of passports after December 2014.  

The first option involves the Cayman Islands submitting securely transmitted passport details through an automated computer system to the U.K., which would then print the passport and issue it directly to the passport holder. A second option involves the transmission of that data via non-automated systems; a third option would be starting with non-automated systems and eventually transitioning to the fully automated data transmission. All passports issued under these options would still bear the Cayman Islands name. 

In all cases, issuance of emergency travel passports would be done in Cayman from existing, non-biometric passport stock.  

However, keeping additional passport stock in Cayman for emergencies – even after the U.K. begins issuing the passports in December 2014 – would cost money. Moreover, it is not known how long the United States will continue to accept foreign passports that do not contain biometric chips. 

Another issue, long-term, is that the providers of the laminate for the locally printed, non-biometric emergency passports will no longer produce the laminate after the next batch of passport stock is ordered, meaning the territory’s current stock will eventually run out.  

Emergency passport issues can sometimes be a “life and death” matter, according to the premier. 

“[There was] a recent incident in which a veteran seaman, who hasn’t traveled since he [retired]..had a heart attack and had to be airlifted to Miami,” Mr. McLaughlin said, adding the man did not see the need for a passport. “If we had not had the ability to produce an emergency passport for him, his family would be in mourning over his death at this time of Christmas.”  

The automated information systems required to work with the U.K. passport printing system could cost in the range of $4.5 million to $5.5 million, according to Mr. McLaughlin. If no other overseas territory wishes to go that route in cooperation with Cayman, the premier said, Cayman would be forced to bear the full cost.  

A fourth option, retiring Cayman Islands passports and replacing them with British passports, would not be accepted, Mr. McLaughlin said.  

“We have requested that the U.K.-printed biometric passports be Cayman Islands specific,” he said.  

The premier has asked that U.K. Overseas Territories Minister Mark Simmonds consider Cayman’s participation with Gibraltar and the Crown dependencies [Jersey, Guernsey, Isle of Man] for the passport printing repatriation project. Also, the government has requested that the U.K.-printed passports be sent back to the Cayman Islands Passport and Corporate Office for distribution.  

Legally speaking, the only citizenship issued in the Cayman Islands is British Overseas Territories citizenship. A Cayman Islands passport conveys that citizenship. The designation of Caymanian status conveys “belonger” status to the individual holder in Cayman, but it is not recognized internationally as a citizenship designation. It is possible to have Caymanian status and not British Overseas Territories citizenship and vice versa.  

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10 COMMENTS

  1. A little help here please.

    Cayman doesn’t want anything to do with the UK and passports, they just want the benefits of holding a UK passport.

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  2. When overseas and you need a Cayman passport where do you go? you go to the British Embassy. If you are overseas and you need to register your child as a Caymanian where do you go, to the British Embassy. England wanting to print our passports in order to meet the requirement of the world anti terrorist regiment, I don’t have a problem with that. Further, the consolidation of the process has got to be saving money. Put yourself in the shoes of the UK, they are required to insure their overseas territories meet a certain international standard, would you leave your international reputation in the hands of people who issue status grant the way Cayman did. We have already lost important diplomatic givens with the USA, hopefully the UK can bring that back. I wonder if they will take on our contracting services, maybe then we will stop the hemorrhage of dollars to lawsuits.

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  3. Mr. McLaughlin said the Cayman Islands has rejected any options involving replacing its passports with U.K. passports. He indicated that the territory does not like any of the proposals regarding issuing new passports with biometric identification chips from the U.K. Currently, Cayman Islands passports issued locally do not contain biometric ID chips.

    This is a very puzzling position that the Cayman Islands has taken, giving the relationship that currently exists between Britain and the Cayman Islands.

    The BOT passports issued in the respective territories have very limited uses as none of these territories are independent countries.

    Its clear that, while these territories have been granted many privileges, some of these privileges are being re-examined by the UK.

    The abolishment of non-tariff life sentences for murder is one and the issuing of local passports is another.

    Why Mr. McLaughlin’s statement is so puzzling is that all passports being issued by the UK and USA are now biometric documents or e-books, as they are called.

    Why would Cayman wish to remain out of the established norm for travel documents when doing so will certainly make international travel for Caymanians more difficult is very hard to make sense of.

    Maybe Mr. McLaughlin can explain his position in more depth so that we can all get a clearer picture.

    On the surface, this would appear to be questioning Cayman’s position as a BOT in a bigger sense and as a Caymanian who holds a full British passport just recently issued, this worries me.

    Would my British e-book be questioned upon entry to the Cayman Islands as a document not acceptable to Cayman’s immigration authorities, eg ?

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  4. Mr. Levy

    You’ve mentioned the most important reason for the world’s major powers, the USA, the EU and most Western countries introducing bio-metric travel documents to their citizens…the on-going terrorist war with Islamic fundamentalists…the Al Quaeda group and others.

    These passports are meant to be read by bio-metric immigration systems that scan identity by reading the eye retina and fingerprints to ensure that the passport is authentic and in the possession of its rightful owner.

    Why Premiere McLaughlin would seek to avoid having Cayman comply with this system as a BOT is both puzzling and worrying unless…

    As many Caymanian politicians have done in the past, he is seeking political points by being seen to be standing up to the ‘bullying’ United Kingdom.

    If this is the case, he has chosen a very poor issue.

    This requirement to bring all the UK’s BOTs under one passport issuing regime is a fundamental one to them continuing as BOTs.

    Any territory that resists could be seen as seeking to go their own way as this is a fundamental issue of citizenship; keeping these non-biometric passports out there is a security risk that the UK and EU is not willing to continue to take.

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  5. Mr Tatum

    I wonder how the UK will qualify the information been provided by the territories, and there is no database that cannot be hacked. Time to clean up our act here at home also, too many undocumented.

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  6. Many Caymanians will have different views and concerns over the changes proposed to our passport. Some of our views may seem logic while others will not. However; my view of this is to accept that it is only The beginning of things to come I am neither going to blame Premier McLaughlin or Opposition Bush or the other party for their views and stance they wish to take; because these things must come to past, just as well as Christ HAD to die on a cross.
    Many of us will wonder why the world is being controlled by such powerful people without our knowledge.
    People, there is a New World Order that is being orchestrated . All the changes, violence, destruction that we are seeing today is only a way of destroying the OLD ORDER in preparation for a NEW ORDER. Something we can do absolutely nothing about, but accept it.
    One of the basic messages I would love to get across is if we can try and rid ourselves of fear. Our phones are being tapped, Our freedom is also being closely watched and monitored, and one day we will loose that freedom. On this planet there are no passengers, we are all crew, so we have to face what is going on in this world today. Many may not want to agree with my views but, if you want to make enemies, then try to change something. I have a British passport, but I love my Cayman Passport more. When these orders are made by the Higher powers, what can we do to stop them. Nothing. So it is nobody’s fault and just the way it has to be. seeking guidance from the highest power is our only hope.

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  7. Mr. Levy/Ms. Vargas

    This response is to both your comments.

    There are huge political changes coming within the relationship between Britain and the European Union and these will affect every single British citizen, whether in Britain or in the overseas territories.

    If one does not reside in the UK, the information coming through the pipeline is second-hand and sketchy at best.

    Even Cayman’s political leaders are not being given the full picture from their UK counterparts, as much as is being witheld from the British population at home.

    It behoves us all to keep up to date on these issues for ourselves.

    One important bit of vital information thst seems to have escaped most Caymanians is that we are ALL full British citizens already and the issuing of new bio-metric passports means that, technically, they will ALL be full EU/British bio-metric passports.

    The BOT passports are being done away with, period.

    As to Mr. Levy’s question regarding how the BOTs citizens will have their information qualified, that is for their political leaders to find out and do what is necessary to protect that information from abuse by the UK authorities.

    That there is a bigger picture behind all this, as suggested by Ms. Vargas, that could very well be the case but…

    The passport issue will not be a negotiable one for Britain’s Overseas Territories; that much I can guarantee you.

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  8. Its simple economics.

    Assume 30K Caymanians

    Passports last 10 years

    So there will be less than 3,000 passports issued per year, 60 a week.

    If Cayman were to invest in the infrastructure to produce (and more expensively VERIFY) the new style Biometric passports which will be required for travel to the US and Europe, the charges would be way in excess of the 73pound (100 KYD) they cost at the moment.

    Don’t read anything more into this than standardization.
    The UK passport office is not Ben and Jerry’s – they don’t want 86 flavors. What’s needed is a passport that is instantly identifiable anywhere in the world by immigration staff who may well not speak English as their primary language (if at all).

    Non biometric passport holders will find themselves treated as second class citizens as those with the embedded chips go through the express ‘biometric’ lanes at all major airports.

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