Emergency Travel Documents in course of time

Travel Documents change in time, following the needs and evolving technical possibilities addressing these. This article spotlights three generations of ETDs of the International Red Cross.


The ICRC issues its emergency travel document for humanitarian purposes to people who do not possess a passport or other recognized travel document and find themselves unable to return to their country of origin or residence, or to proceed to a country offering temporary or permanent refuge or asylum. These people could be asylum seekers, refugees, migrants in particularly vulnerable situations, displaced people or stateless people.


The concept of Laissez-Passer and emergency travel documents dates way back. The below picture gallery looks back to WorldWar II. The identifiers remained similar, using portrait photos and original fingerprints as well as signatures. The handwritten data has given way to digitally printed technologies. However, in special cirumstances, the documents will still be issued with physical photo and handwritten data.


The document issued mid 20th century was an A4. It then was replaced by a spiral fold type document. The new concept from January 1st, 2019 is again based on an A4-format security paper in order to be digitally printed. However, it still can be issued manually, if the situation requires. The layout considers to a maximum the ICAO regulations for Machine Readable Travel Documents (MRTD). The document can now be folded down into an A6-type document. Every resulting page represents a specific topic. Page 1: Biographical data (Datapage)

Page 2: Routing and Biometrical data

Page 3: Visa-Page 1

Page 4: Endorsement of document

Page 5/6: Explanations on the document

Page 7/8: Visa-Page 2/3 (Multiple Visa-Pages for Exit-, Transit- and Entry-Visas)


The environments where such documents are issued vary greatly, making a high-tech solution not necessarely the ideal implementation. The current solution engages both organizational, technical and material aspects making it a good solution for persons in need. However, we remain dedicated to seek further enhancements meeting the needs of the ICRC and the organizations depending on them.


See our pages on the CROC-system highlighting possibilities for vital documents in challenging situations.

Credits: All pictures © ICRC published without restrictions


Picture Top-Left: 1999 - Traveldocument for Erich Priebke, alias Otto Pape. After the Second World War, thousands of people found themselves undocumented, and sometimes without nationality. The ICRC has assisted thousands of victims by providing them with travel documents. After receiving a list of fake names used by war criminals and high-ranking Nazis who had arrived in Argentina, ICRC researchers discovered that at least 10 of them had received ICRC travel documents through misleading means. These people included Erich Priebke, Erich Müller, Josef Mengele, Adolf Eichmann, Klaus Barbie and Gerhard Bohne.

Picture Top-Middle: 2011 - South Sudan, Western Equatoria state, Yambio. Mibiuba and 6 other Congolese children get their travel documents before departing on the ICRC plane that will take them to the Democratic Republic of Congo to be reunited with their families.

Picture Top-Right: 2013 - Western Côte d'Ivoire. ICRC travel documents for unaccompanied children who have to cross the border from Liberia to Côte d'Ivoire to be reunited with their families.

Picture Bottom-Left: 2019 - New ICRC Emergency Travel Docuent introduced early 2019, enhanced security features and functional layout.

Picture Bottom-Middle: 2007 - Jordan, Al-Ruwaished camp. ICRC issues travel documents to a Palestinian refugee to be resettled

Picture Bottom-Right: 2011 - Sallum, crossing between Libya and Egypt. The ICRC has set up a post to help thousands of migrants stranded without vaild travel documents.

#ICAO #ICRC #Traveldocument #Securitydocument #SecurityPrint #ETD

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