Wed, Oct 14, 2009 - Page 5 News List

Interpol passports could allow agents visa-free travel

AP , SINGAPORE

The global police organization Interpol began issuing passports yesterday to its senior investigators, aimed at allowing them to enter any of the group’s 188 member countries without visas.

Pakistan and Ukraine were to become the first countries to accept the new documents and three more would follow soon, Interpol Secretary-General Ronald Noble said during the organization’s general assembly here.

He said he was sure the remaining member countries would also honor the passports.

“We don’t come to a country unless we are asked to go. If we are asked to go in an emergency, you want us to go as fast as possible,” he told reporters.

Noble said some 1,000 investigators, heads of Interpol offices around the world and their staff would be given these passports, similar to the ones held by diplomats and UN staff.

RED TAPE

The aim is to ensure that Interpol investigators reach the site of a terrorist attack or natural disaster quickly without being bogged down by visa red tape.

“If they have to wait for the process of having their visa approved because they don’t come from the right country, that can mean a delayed response, which can mean a delayed service to the country we are trying to serve,” he said.

Noble said there have been many cases in the past where agents couldn’t travel while waiting for their visa to be approved.

Samoa joined Interpol as its 188th member yesterday.

Noble handed the first Interpol passport to Interpol president Khoo Boon Hui, who is also the Singapore police commissioner.

HELPING THE UN

In another example of Interpol’s widening responsibilities, it promised on Monday to provide technical and advisory support to UN peacekeepers.

UN officials say that in the next two months, the number of police involved in peacekeeping operations is expected to increase to 15,000, compared with 6,000 in 2005.

They say war-torn countries are often riven with transnational crime syndicates, hampering rebuilding efforts. Interpol can play a key role, said Andrew Hughes, UN Department of Peacekeeping Operations police adviser.

“On every front, whether it’s capacity building, interim law enforcement or close operations support, we need the help of Interpol,” Hughes said.

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