News24

Visa-free travel for Interpol

2009-10-13 09:45

Singapore - The global police organisation Interpol began issuing special passports Tuesday to its senior investigators, aimed at allowing them to enter any of the group's 188 member countries without visas.

Pakistan and Ukraine become the first countries to accept the new documents and three more will follow soon, Interpol Secretary-General Ronald K Noble said during the organisation's general assembly here.

He said he is sure the remaining member countries will also honour these 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 The Associated Press.

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.

The aim is to ensure that Interpol investigators, who are of various nationalities, reach the site of a terrorist attack or natural disaster quickly without being bogged down by visa red-tape, said Noble, who is American.

"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 Interpol investigations have been held up because they couldn't travel while waiting for their visa to be approved.

The Lyon, France-based Interpol was created in 1923 and is the world's largest international police organisation. It facilitates cross-border police co-operation and focuses on combating terrorism, organised crime and the trafficking of drugs, weapons, and humans. Samoa joined Interpol as its 188th member on Tuesday.

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

In another example of Interpol's widening responsibilities, the organisation on Monday promised to provide technical and advisory support on policing to UN peacekeepers around the world.