By Caribbean News Now contributor
BASSETERRE, St Kitts -- The St Kitts and Nevis government has backtracked on its claim that the United States required the holder’s place of birth be removed from St Kitts-Nevis passports, and now claims instead that it was merely following International Civil Aviation Organisation (ICAO) guidelines.
Erasmus Williams, Press Secretary to the Prime Minister
In an interview last week, Erasmus Williams, the prime minister's press secretary, said, "[The] place of birth from our St Kitts and Nevis passport was removed at the request of the United States authorities."
However, on Friday, Williams corrected this assertion: "On 9th July 2014, in an interview with WINNFM, I made reference to a statement made by Dr Ken Ballentyne on the nationality fields being removed from the St Kitts and Nevis passports at the request of the United States government.
“Although the US government was aware of St Kitts and Nevis’ decision to make this change following guidelines from The International Civil Aviation Organisation (ICAO), it was not made at their request."
Nevertheless, notwithstanding the latest claim by Williams in this respect, it is arguable that the decision to remove the place of birth from St Kitts-Nevis passports was or should have been made with reference to ICAO guidelines, except to the extent of whether or not it was permissible in the first place.
The relevant ICAO publication: Machine Readable Travel Documents
, which sets out specifications for machine readable passports (MRP), including the biometric identification of the holder and for the storage of the associated data on a contactless integrated circuit, clearly states that the place of birth field is an “optional element” in the passport’s “mandatory zone”.
According to the ICAO guidelines, the place of birth field is optionally used for the city and state of the holder’s birthplace.
“A translation of the name into one or more languages, one of which should be English, French or Spanish, should be given when the translated name is more familiar to the international community. At the discretion of the issuing state, the town or suburb of birth may be used. When the MRP is issued to a person whose place of birth was outside the state issuing the document and it is desired that the state or territory of birth be shown, the three-letter code appearing in Appendix 7 shall be used,” the guidelines state.
If, therefore, the St Kitts and Nevis government is now claiming that removal of the place of birth was required or even recommended under ICAO guidelines, this is clearly not true, since the guidelines in question expressly state that the decision whether or not to include the place of birth on machine readable passports is a matter for the issuing state not the ICAO.
The Americans made us do it, says St Kitts-Nevis government