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ICAO – Machine Readable Passports


Palestinian who are issued with Travel Documents, or Sudanese and Bangladeshi nationals, as well as citizens of some African nations that have not upgraded their passports to Machine Readable Passports will not be able to travel internationally as of 24 November 2015.

This is because the International Civil Aviation Organisation (ICAO) has set a deadline of 24 November 2015 for globally phasing out all non machine readable passports.

However the ICAO rule leaves thousands of Palestinians, Sudanese and Bangladeshi nationals in limbo as their documents are still handwritten.

ICAO Standards are legally binding on all ICAO member states. However, there are instances when a member state may be unwilling or unable to comply with a specific ICAO ruling, either for a specific period of time or indefinitely.

Exemptions from ICAO rulings are regulated by Article 38 of the Chicago Convention (Convention on International Civil Aviation, signed at Chicago – 7.12.1944). Generally, when a state is unable to comply with a specific rule, it has an obligation to ‘give notice’ to the Council of ICAO by ‘filing a difference’ under Article 38.

Article 38 states: “In the case of amendments to international standards, any State which does not make the appropriate amendments to its own regulations or practices shall give notice to the Council within sixty days of the adoption of the amendment to the international standard, or indicate the action which it proposes to take.”

The Lebanese government is responsible for issuing Palestinian Travel Documents, and is a Member state of the ICAO. Lebanon however has not given notice to the Council of ICAO by filing a difference for its non-compliance 60 days prior to the 24 November 2015 deadline. Libya has provided notice to the Council of ICAO, and has obtained an extension to the deadline for its citizens.

ICAO has noted that any non-compliant passports held after the 24 November deadline could cause individuals to face denial of travel at airports, or lengthy processes when it comes to visa issuances by other countries after the cut-off date.

After the 24 November deadline, ICAO member states may, for instance, refuse admittance to holders of non-machine readable passports, or make visa processing more onerous and costly because of the associated risks. The potential consequences of individuals holding a non-machine readable passport might include financial losses, increased costs, delays, refused entries and cancelled trips.

The Australian Department of Immigration and Border Protection has not released any information on how it intends to deal with travelers that do not possess a machine readable passport.

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