New passports not an option

An editorial cartoon by the late Journal cartoonist Elson Wilson depicts Marshallese migrating to the United States.

It is currently impossible to get a new Marshall Islands passport and there is no telling when the service will be restored.

The Marshall Islands Passport Division at the Attorney General’s office has been unable to generate passports since its equipment broke on November 25. This was the point that the office determined “there was absolutely no chance” for the passport printer to work, said Acting Attorney General Bernard Adiniwin Tuesday this week.

“This office is planning to purchase a new one,” said Adiniwin of the developing plan to solve the passport machine problem.

“We’re still waiting for a German company to provide us the price quote for a new machine as well as a technician who can come here to install the machine and train staff to use it,” he said.

The immediate problem is Marshallese who need to travel but who do not have passports or whose passports are soon to expire, as most countries will not allow travelers to enter if fewer than six months remains before expiration of a passport.

Adiniwin said the RMI government is communicating with diplomats from the US, Philippines and Taiwan — the three primary destinations of Marshallese — to see if arrangements can be made for acceptance of temporary travel documents issued by the AG’s Passport Division.

In earlier years when problems developed with passport production, the Passport Division would sometimes issue temporary travel papers for medical evacuation patients or others in need of urgent travel.

“We’re working with Foreign Affairs to see if the US, Philippines and Taiwan can allow RMI citizens to use these (temporary travel documents) when they travel,” Adiniwin said. “We’re targeting referral patients and Marshallese who have family emergency in the US.”

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