Passport office opened

A new passport office has been opened in the capital Mogadishu by the Transitional National Government of Somalia (TNG), a senior official told IRIN on Wednesday.

Muhammad Mahmud Shiil, the Minister of State for Foreign Affairs, said the new office - which will come under the jurisdiction of the foreign affairs ministry - became necessary after complaints that Somali passports were being issued by authorised people.

Shiil said the office would be issuing old Somali passports "but with a new dry seal that cannot be duplicated or faked". "We have advised Somali businessmen in Mogadishu to bring in their old passports so they can be stamped with the new seal," he added.

Usually, people in Mogadishu who want a passport go to the Bakaara market where, for a fee, anyone can procure a document.

"We have contacted the authorities at airports in Jeddah, Saudi Arabia, and Dubai, United Arab Emirates [through which the bulk of Somali trade passes] to make them aware of the situation," Shiil told IRIN.

He said the TNG was in the process of issuing new passports with the aim of countering the widespread forgery of Somali passports. "We are in the process of printing new forgery-proof passports, but until then, the old one with the new seal will remain in circulation."