Catriona Robertson

journeys at home and abroad

Iris ID and freedom to travel

Logo of the UK's Border Agency is responsible for passport control and the iris ID scans at Heathrow

The UK's Border Agency is responsible for passport control and iris ID scans at Heathrow

Coming back through passport control at Heathrow, I noticed some of the people in the non-EU queue going through the iris identification apparatus.  When we heard from the British Embassy last Monday about the failure of Bosnia, so far, to meet the requirements for the iris ID system, I didn’t fully understand the consequences.

Sitting in a cafe by the old fountain in Sarajevo on our last day, Tariq told me that Yugoslav passports used to be the best passports in the world – you could travel east and west, to the soviet bloc and to western Europe and the USA.  But now a Bosnian passport will only get you as far as Slovenia without visas, and getting visas to enter places like Britain is not easy – letters of invitation, fingerscans, employer’s and financial details, itineraries, etc.  So I am less likely to bump into a Bosnian holiday-maker or gap-year student in London than I am someone from other European countries.  We didn’t need anything other than our UK passports when we arrived at Sarajevo airport.

Croatia offers any Bosnian Croat a passport (Croatia is also a candidate country for joining the EU) and Serbia offers any Bosnian Serb a passport, so this provides both somewhere to go should things kick off again in Bosnia and also a more extensive list of countries to visit.  Bosniacs (Bosnian Muslims) have no other passport or place of refuge.

It took me a while to realise that my questions and invitations to Bosnians (have you visited Britain – it would be great if you could visit us in the UK) were based on an ill-informed understanding of how difficult international travel can be for Bosnians.

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2 comments on “Iris ID and freedom to travel

  1. multifaith
    12 October 2009

    And thank you, Shrimp, for keeping me company! I’ve added some photos and will post some further thoughts later, particularly as a way of keeping in touch with Bosnian friends (who have better internet access than I managed from the hotels!).

    There was some discussion at the end of the trip as to what to include in the official report, but I think it will be a useful one. Will keep you posted, as they say!

    Catriona

  2. KIrsten Stalker
    12 October 2009

    Thanks you for including me in your blog Catriona. I am sorry the trip is over and there wont be any more messages to read! You saw such a lot and met so mnay people in just a few days and i expect it will take more time to process it all.

    speak soon i hope
    love
    shrimp

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This entry was posted on 12 October 2009 by in Bosnia and tagged , , .
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