SINGAPORE, Oct 13 – Interpol officers will no longer require visas to travel internationally whenever they are on official duty.
This follows a resolution reached on Tuesday at the 78th Interpol General Assembly taking place in Singapore.
Instead, investigators and officials from member countries will be issued with Interpol’s special passports which will grant them access to member countries worldwide without necessarily having to acquire visas.
Delegations to the high-powered security meeting who include police commissioners and top Criminal Investigations bosses had previously complained of the strenuous visa processing procedures saying it greatly hampers the war on cross-border crimes.
“As the world’s largest police organisation, Interpol needs to remain at the forefront of all activity which enhances member country security and safety,” said Interpol’s President Khoo Boon Hui.
A statement posted on Interpol’s website on Tuesday stated that the introduction of the special passport will enable Interpol officers to be deployed immediately to scenes of terrorist scenes, major crimes of natural disasters without necessarily having to apply for visas.
Interpol officers on transnational investigations or urgent deployments have previously faced unnecessary delays while traveling to various countries due to the strenuous visa application process in respective states.
“The Interpol passport contains state-of-the-art features that will not only facilitate transaction of important Interpol business worldwide, but will also serve as an example for the standards which should be implemented worldwide for travel document security,” said President Khoo who was the first to receive the special Interpol passport at the General Assembly which kicked off on Sunday.
Kenya is represented at the Assembly by Police Commissioner Mathew Iteere and Director of the Criminal Investigations Department Karanja Gatiba.
Member countries would be engaged to waive visa requirements for Interpol passport bearers.
Two countries, Pakistan and Ukraine, have already agreed to waive their visa entry requirements recognising that those individuals will be traveling on behalf of the organisation in the furtherance of international police co-operation, the statement on Interpol’s website said.
Secretary General Ronald Noble said that as more countries waived their visa requirements, the more effective the organisation’s support would become and he urged all member countries to seek the necessary governmental recognition and approval.
“When member countries ask Interpol for assistance to prevent, investigate, or respond to any terrorist act, serious crime or natural disaster, the safety and security of their citizens may depend on Interpol being in place as fast as possible,” said Secretary General Noble.
“That a person is traveling with an Interpol passport for official business should be all the information a country needs in order to grant them access. By agreeing to waive visas, member countries will ultimately be assisting themselves,” added Mr Noble.
Other key issues lined up for discussion at the five-day meeting are the provision of enhanced operational support, particularly in relation to the expansion and increased use of Interpol’s DNA and fingerprint databases by frontline officers in member countries to help solve crimes and identify fugitives through data comparison, encouraging member countries to use tools to block access to online child abuse images and establishing an information exchange platform for national anti-corruption bodies and the creation of a strategic anti-corruption information database.
The global reach of the world’s largest police organisation was further extended following the acceptance of Samoa as Interpol’s newest member country, bringing the total number to 188 countries.
This year’s General Assembly is also being attended by 800 senior law enforcement officials from 153 countries.