Rijock alleged that thousands of blank Dominican passports were acquired by the Moroccan ambassador to Dominica

The Ministry of Justice, Immigration and National Security has dismissed the latest blog penned by controversial blogger, Kenneth Rijock, as “malicious, entirely false and an unjustified slur.”

Saying that he received information from a person inside the government, Rijock alleged in a blog entitled, ‘How many thousand blank passports from Dominica has been sold in Syria?’ that earlier this year, the Ambassador to Dominica of the Kingdom of Morocco, Mohamed Benjilany, visited Dominica and met repeatedly with the Prime Minister, Roosevelt Skerrit.

“On that day, and on a subsequent visit that the Ambassador made to Dominica, he allegedly acquired blank, official Dominica passports, My sources advise that the total number of passports he took possession of could be as high as 10,000, but in any event one must assume that several thousand passports were involved,” he wrote. (Read full blog here)

But in a statement late on Thursday, the ministry expressed grave concern over the blog and has sought to explain the process in which Dominica’s passports are printed and issued.

“The contents of this blog is particularly concerning because no effort has been made by the author and the publisher to communicate with the Ministry or to verify the very serious allegations made therein,” the statement said. “Not only is the article malicious but it is an entirely false and unjustified slur on the hard-working men and women within the government service and particularly the Ministry of Justice, Immigration Department and Ministry of Security. These attacks are even more concerning as Dominica, in the person of the Honorable Minister of Justice (Rayburn Blackmoore) is the chairman of the Council of National Security and Law Enforcement, a regional body responsible for the coordination of the multi-dimensional nature of the Caribbean security to ensure a safe and stable community.”

The statement said it is important that the people of Dominica and the wider world are armed with the facts to enable to rest assured of the security of the island’s passports.

“The passport program of the Commonwealth of Dominica was designed and developed by Canadian Banknote, a Canadian company that specializes in the security of paper and documents including passports, identification cards and driver’s licenses,” the statement said. “Canadian Banknote has a long history of reliability and security and is utilized by many countries in the region and the world. Dominica moved from handwritten passports to machine readable passports in keeping with the travel security protocols that the jurisdiction signed onto with the International Civil Aviation Authority.”

The statement pointed out that the blank machine readable passport books are ordered by the Ministry of Justice, Immigration and National Security from Canadian Banknote.

“On arrival, they are cleared from customs and stored in the storeroom at the Police Headquarters. No one person can access and remove blank passport books from that secured storeroom,” the statement explained. “Official and diplomatic passports are similarly ordered and stored. Since Tropical Storm Erika, there have never been 10,000 passport books of whatever type in the custody of the Immigration Department.”

The statement went on to explain the nature of blank passport books and the process involved in printing.

“The passport book has an assigned number from production, that blank passport book also has a compatible number, another half if you will, downloaded at a computer program,” it stated. “Now for the passport to be completed or made whole, the physical blank passport book must be united with its computer generated program. A physical blank passport book is useless to anyone who may have it in their possession as it cannot be printed without going through numerous security clearances.”

The statement goes on, “The electronic passport system keeps a record of all passports entered, issued and to whom it was issued, it keeps records of who possessed the passport, who supervised the passport and who printed the passport. The system is able to give reports on the quantity of passports created, the quantity issued, the quantity damaged in production and the quantity in stock. Audits are performed by the Audit Department and reports are submitted by the auditor to the Government of Dominica on the activities of the Immigration Department. The audit is done to verify that all passports are accounted for and that the relevant fees are paid in respect to those passports that have been issued for the period of the audit. Any area of concern is highlighted by the audit and forms part of the report.”

The statement said all Dominican passports are processed and issued at the Passport and Immigration Department at the Police Headquarters in Roseau and all applications overseas are sent to the various Dominican consulates and forwarded to the Immigration Department by the Ministry of Foreign Affairs for processing.

“After completion, those passports are returned to the Ministry of Foreign Affairs. All regular passports are signed by the Inspector of Immigration and when he is unavailable, by the Deputy Chief of Police and the Chief of Police,” the statement stated.

The statement gave the assurance that no government officials have access or any privileged access to the Immigration Department Computer System and to issue or give any electronic directive to issue blank passports to anyone.

“Any blank passport that is not printed at the Passport and Immigration Department will show up in the audit and will be missing in the electronic count of the passport as unaccounted for,” it said. “All passports must be accounted for and the electronic system will provide an alert of any missing passport and say who the missing passport was assigned too.”

The statement also gave the assurance that the Prime Minister, the Minister of Justice, the Permanent Secretary, the Chief of Police or any other officials have no access to the passport program at the Immigration and Passport Office.

“The idea of a blank passport, like a blank check, simply cannot happen given the nature and security features of our passport and passport issuing system,” the statement stated. “It is impossible for any minister to issue any passport, blank books in particular, in order to issue a passport book to anyone. Their name must be in the program, that is the system with printing privileges and printing privileges are electronically signed to staff members each day. The person doing the issuing must be the administrator of the system.”

The ministry stated that there will be continuing efforts to educate the public more on these processes in the upcoming weeks and months.