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Syrian passport now the world's most expensive

A Syrian passport could end up costing $800 [AFP]

Date of publication: 4 April, 2017

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New regulations on issuing travel documents for Syrians abroad will make the Syrian passport the world's most expensive, costing up to $800.

The Syrian passport will become the world's most expensive following the Damascus government's approval of a bill on amending the consular fees for issuing and renewing travel documents for Syrians residing abroad.

The new amendments raised the fees $800 for urgent applications and $400 for regular ones, a cost equivalent to nearly 9 times the minimum wage in Syria, which stands at $45.6.

According to state news agency SANA, the bill was approved by the Cabinet last week, but the new prices are yet to be applied.

More than 320,000 people have been killed and more than half of the country's population have been displaced since Syria's conflict erupted in 2011 with protests against President Bashar al-Assad's rule.

The UN said last week that more than 5 million people have fled Syria since the beginning of the brutal civil war in 2011, mostly settling in Turkey, Lebanon, Jordan, Iraq, and Egypt, as well as Europe.

Many Syrians left the country illegally, fearing arrest or conscription if they passed through regime-held border crossings.

This has left them unable to renew their passports and trapped in their host countries.

In 2015, the Syrian government changed its passport requirements, allowing Syrians abroad to apply for the travel document without intelligence service review.

The decree stated that passports would be issued to Syrians "even if they left in an illegal manner or they hold non-official passports or travel documents", referring to passports issued by Syrian opposition representatives in Qatar, which has been one of the biggest financial backers of rebel groups fighting Assad.

The controversial decision was criticised at the time, with experts saying that issuing passports without referring applications to the country’s central immigration control would be abused by terrorists and people smugglers.

The same year, fake Syrian passports were found being used by non-Syrians to apply for asylum in Europe.

In 2016, Syrian citizens had visa-free or visa on arrival access to 32 countries and territories, ranking the Syrian passport 100 in the world according to the Henley and Partners Visa Restriction Index.

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