Syrian electronic passport impedes holders’ mobility
The Immigration and Passports Department, affiliated with the Syrian regime’s Ministry of Interior, began issuing electronic passports in mid-2023 instead of the old ones with handwritten signatures.
Official statements regarding the international recognition of Syrian electronic passports have been limited to a recorded interview by actor Bassem Yakhour with the Assistant Director of Passport Management, Ibrahim Arnous, who stated that countries are now aware of the issuance of electronic passports and the expiry date of old passports acceptance.
However, some Syrian holders of electronic passports continue to face issues with non-recognition by European and foreign countries.
The Federal Police in Germany issued a circular, obtained by Enab Baladi, stating that the new Syrian electronic passport (issued in 2023) does not comply with the International Civil Aviation Organization’s recommendations due to the absence of a signature field for the passport holder on the personal data page.
According to the circular, the German Foreign Ministry is temporarily recognizing the new passports until January 15, 2024, with the final recognition to be discussed at the European Union level.
Stalled government transactions
The lack of recognition of the new Syrian electronic passports has affected the transactions of Syrian refugees residing in certain countries.
Mohammad Hassan, a Syrian refugee in Germany, told Enab Baladi that his travel procedures outside Germany were halted because the Foreigners’ Office refused to add the electronic passport number to his residence permit. The official justified this action by stating that the temporary recognition period for the passport (until January 15, 2024) was nearing its end.
The rejection came after Hassan added his handwritten signature to the passport at the Syrian embassy in Germany, a requirement imposed by the state for temporary recognition of electronic passports.
Discrepancies in government handling
Government agencies have varied approaches to the new passports, with cases observed by Enab Baladi where some individuals had their electronic passports accepted in Germany, other Arab countries, and certain European countries, while others faced rejection.
The transactions of Syrian expatriates relying on renewing their residencies or completing their naturalization files have been hindered by the electronic passport, according to intersecting cases verified by Enab Baladi.
The Syrian Ministry of Interior issued a circular to the Immigration and Passports branch heads and departments, instructing them to exclusively accept passport applications from citizens inside the country through the “Platform” website.
Citizens face difficulty in accessing the website and registering for free, prompting the majority to resort to intermediaries for assistance in booking appointments for a non-fixed monetary fee.
Unofficial public groups and announcements on social media platforms were noted by Enab Baladi, offering registration services on the “Platform” website with pre-specified costs.
In addition to the passport issuance costs, intermediaries charge their clients a fee for registering on the free website.
On December 21, the Ministry of Interior doubled the fee for the “urgent” Syrian passports for Syrians inside Syria to two million Syrian pounds, up from one million and five thousand pounds.
The majority of Syrian expatriates rely on sending their passports to Syria for renewal or issuance, either through a relative to complete the transactions or by submitting the request to the electronic consular office, then sending the documents to the Syrian Embassy in Oman to finalize the process.
According to Enab Baladi‘s observations, obtaining a regular passport from the Syrian Embassy in Oman takes approximately 40 days, despite the consulate’s website specifying a period of 15 days at a cost of 300 US dollars.
As for the expedited passport, as mentioned on the website, it takes two actual working days from the date of document receipt, at a cost of 800 US dollars.
In addition to the two transactions, there is a shipping cost. The Foreign and Expatriates Ministry specified on the electronic consular office website that documents are to be shipped through (DHL) at a current shipping cost of 100 US dollars, while the same website mentioned the possibility of sending the required documents to the embassy via any company.
Features or disadvantages
Syrian passport holders can enter only six countries visa-free, which are Palestine, Iran, Malaysia, and the Caribbean countries of Dominica and Haiti, as well as Micronesia in Oceania, according to the Passport Index website specializing in comparing passports based on the number of countries they allow entry to without a visa.
However, its holders need a visa to enter 158 countries. According to the website, the accessibility to various parts of the world provided by the Syrian passport does not exceed 20%.
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