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.