E-passports for Bahraini citizens are under study, a top government official has revealed.

More than 150 countries have introduced such passports, said Interior Ministry Under-Secretary for Nationality, Passports and Residence Affairs Shaikh Hisham bin Abdulrahman Al Khalifa.

These next-generation travel documents contain an electronic chip which has important security-related data encoded on it, and uses Radio-Frequency Identification (RFID) and biometrics.

Shaikh Hisham told Shura Council members during their weekly session yesterday that e-passports will be scanned using Blue Line Technology which offers a non-intrusive, biometric verification system that can read, evaluate and verify a face while the person is walking up to a door, or through a metal detector or turnstile.

The GDN previously reported that new technologies to screen people entering or leaving Bahrain are set to be introduced.

In the first phase, citizens and residents will be able to use their smart cards to enter and exit the country, while gates that run on artificial intelligence and face recognition technologies will be launched in the later phases.

These changes form part of government-drafted amendments to the 1975 Passports Law which were approved unanimously by Shura yesterday and MPs last month, and have been referred for ratification to His Majesty King Hamad.

Borders director Colonel Fawaz Al Jiran said the gates would be highly secure and be able to detect people perfectly, while passports director Major Shaikh Abdulrahman bin Daij Al Khalifa said Bahrain was looking at mobile app passports in line with the World Economic Forum recommendations.

Procedures at the airport were tightened last year to prevent blacklisted individuals from sneaking back into the country.

A hi-tech electronic system developed by the Labour Market Regulatory Authority was introduced in May last year.

The system collects, saves and matches biometric data electronically, including fingerprints and irises of expatriate workers in the commercial and household sectors.

* All medics, including support staff, could be insured against errors under a Shura Council proposal approved yesterday.

Twenty-two members rejected a recommendation by the services committee against the move, saying that they had waited long for the government to present its own version of the law.

The proposed amendment is to the 1989 Human Medicine and Dentistry Law that would see all medics insured against errors.

National Health Regulatory Authority (NHRA) chief executive Dr Mariam Al Jalahma said that while insurance against errors for professional practitioners was vital, it shouldn’t be pushed through in a rush.

She explained that the plan – originally proposed by the Bahrain Medical Society (BMS) months ago – had been put off over fears the high cost would make it untenable.

However, it could be implemented soon as the initiative would now come under Sehati, the National Health Insurance Scheme, said Dr Al Jalahma.

Pointing out that medical mistakes don’t go unpunished, she said alternative punishments could be introduced for erring medics as part of a massive revamp of the country’s 33-year-old governing law.

Following the chamber’s approval, the government will be now forced to draft a law within six months and returned to the National Assembly for review.

Meanwhile, debate on fines of up to BD500 for occupying public roads illegally has been postponed.

Currently, under the 1996 Occupancy of Public Roads Law, violators are being charged BD20.

Amendments to the law would have seen the fine increased to between BD50 and BD500.


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