Where have all the passports gone?


Over 120,000 Nepalis have reportedly ‘lost’ their passports and procured new ones in the last four-and-half years.

Acting Foreign Secretary Shankar Das Bairagi said this data was for the period after December 2010, when Nepal started issuing Machine Readable Passports (MRPs). During this period, Department of Passport (DoP) issued 3.55 million MRPs, including the 120,000 passports issued to replace lost ones.

The volume of lost passports is about four per cent of the total number of passports issued during this period. Most of the lost passports were hand-written ones issued before adoption of MRPs.

Officials claim that most people report they lost their passport without actually losing it. According to them, people, mostly those seeking jobs in the Gulf and Malaysia report at the DoP that they ‘lost’ their passports after manpower agencies or agents held their documents for weeks and even months.

“Instead of taking back their passports, they simply tend to take a new one by claiming that they lost their documents,” a DoP official observed.

Likewise, some people also falsely report loss of passport after their visa applications are rejected.

“People have the misperception that once visa application is rejected, they won’t get visa next time if they provide the same passport. So they simply report loss of passport and apply for a new one,” said another DoP official.

The official further said another reason was that many people who return from the Gulf region and Malaysia don’t want to identify their backgrounds, if they want to go to other developed countries the next time.

The government has no mechanism to determine whether or not one has really lost his/her passport. The DoP issues new passports by declaring void the ‘lost’ passport. It also informs Interpol — through Nepal Police — about cancellation of the previous passport.

DoP has tried to discourage such tendency by double-charging for issuing another passport in lost cases. With these measures, cases of lost passports have declined to some extent. But, still the volume of such cases is quite unbelievable. The government charges at least Rs 10,000 to issue passport in ‘lost cases’. The normal fee for a passport is Rs 5,000.

Thapa stated that there were very few genuine lost cases. “If such a huge volume of passports were genuinely lost, at least some of them must be found,” one official said.