Mohammad Imran Image Credit: Abdul Rahman/Gulf News archives

Abu Dhabi: The Bangladeshi Embassy in Abu Dhabi has urged an estimated 30,000 Bangladeshis in the UAE to apply for changing their handwritten passports to machine-readable passports (MRPs) to ensure hassle-free travel. The number of Bangladeshis in the UAE is estimated to be between 600,000 and 700,000 and around 95 per cent of them have already got their MRPs, a top Bangladeshi diplomat told Gulf News.

“About 90 per cent of them managed to get the MRPs even before the November 24, 2015, deadline set by the International Civil Aviation Organisation (ICAO). About five per cent got the MRPs during the past six months,” Mohammad Imran, the Bangladeshi Ambassador to the UAE, said.

“We urge the remaining people to convert their passports to MRPs at the earliest to ensure hassle-free travel,” the envoy said.

The ICAO had issued the deadline for the 191 member-states to stop the circulation of non-machine-readable passports.

The ambassador said Bangladeshis holding handwritten passports can travel to Bangladesh once. “But they cannot go out of the country without an MRP.”

The UAE stopped issuing new visas to Bangladeshis holding handwritten passports in 2013 although renewal of their existing visa was permitted.

As Gulf News reported earlier, the Indian, Pakistani, Philippines and Nepal embassies in Abu Dhabi had said most of their nationals in the UAE had already got MRPs before the deadline.

The Bangladeshi Embassy in Abu Dhabi and the Consulate in Dubai had conducted several awareness programmes since 2011 among the Bangladeshi community in the UAE about the ICOA’s November 2015 deadline. “That’s why we were able to issue MRPs to 90 per cent of our people in the UAE before the deadline,” the ambassador said.

Of those who have not yet turned up for MRPs, most of them are working in remote areas in the UAE, he said. Some of them may not be aware of the deadline. “We urge Bangladeshis to spread this message in the community. We request sponsors to ensure that their employees are holding MRPs as required by the regulation,” the envoy said.

On passport-related matters, Imran said, people should not wait until the last minute. “Whether it is renewal of passport or converting it to MRP, they should do it in advance.”

Bangladeshi diplomatic missions in the UAE take four to six weeks to renew the passport or issue a new MRP. The applications details are electronically transmitted to the centre in Dhaka and passports are printed there, the ambassador said.