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Fix for passport problem still under consideration, UK says

The UK Government said work continued to return the BMU code to Bermuda passports (File photograph)

Efforts to return the unique BMU code to Bermudian passports are continuing, the British Government has said.

The assurance came almost six years after Britain took over the printing of passports for its Overseas Territories — which caused problems for Bermudians travelling to the island through the United States.

A British government spokeswoman said: “The UK understands that the return of the BMU passport code is a priority for Bermuda, and we continue our work to progress this matter.”

The new-style Government of Bermuda passports were coded with the British GBR rather than the traditional Bermudian BMU.

It is understood that British officials will contact the Bermuda Government to confirm the next steps.

The UK Government took over responsibility for printing passports for Overseas Territories citizens in 2016 because of security concerns.

But a new code on the documents caused problems for some Bermudian travellers, especially when travelling through the United States from elsewhere.

Successive ministers and premiers have highlighted the problem.

Patricia Gordon-Pamplin said that when she was the One Bermuda Alliance home affairs minister in 2017 Her Majesty’s Passport Office had ignored concerns when the printing of local passports was moved.

She added that “the decision to transfer the printing was not a decision made by Bermuda".

Michael Dunkley, the Premier at the time, wrote to Baroness Anelay, then the minister responsible for the Overseas Territories, to ask for the problem to be resolved “as a matter of urgency”.

The late Walton Brown, in October 2017 the Minister of Home Affairs in a Progressive Labour Party administration, said his team was trying to determine what it would cost to return the printing process to Bermuda.

He raised the matter again about five months later and said that the transfer of passport production to Britain continued to cause delays and confusion for Bermudians who transited through the US.

Mr Brown told MPs that he had met UK officials on a trip to London and that they had been “sympathetic” but that “to date there had been no concerted action”.

He added that although security concerns were the original reason for the change, there had been no security problems with Bermudian-issued passports.

Wayne Caines, now a PLP backbench MP, appealed to a British politician when he had responsibility for passports as the national security minister in October 2019.

He met Seema Kennedy, a former Conservative MP and then a junior minister at the UK Home Office, to discuss the passport problem.

Mr Caines said then: “We had the opportunity to strongly make the case for the speedy return of Bermuda's BMU code to our passports.

“Home Office officials will continue to work with our London office team as we try to expedite this important revision.”

Ms Kennedy left the post in December 2019.

David Burt, the Premier, attended the Joint Ministerial Council, which involved the UK Government and the political leaders of the Overseas Territories in November.

A government spokeswoman added that talks during the trip also set a timeline to return the BMU code to Bermuda passports.

Mr Burt said then: “I am pleased it was agreed that the Foreign Commonwealth and Development Office will work with the Home Office to confirm a time frame for the return of this code.

“Like the rest of the world, Bermudians are travelling again and returning home through the United States must be made easier with the return of the BMU code to our passports.”

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Published January 11, 2022 at 7:55 am (Updated January 11, 2022 at 7:55 am)

Fix for passport problem still under consideration, UK says

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