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Syrians in Passport Limbo During Assad’s Victory Lap

Hold on Renewals Puts Livelihoods at Risk

Syrians line up to apply for passports inside of the Embassy of Syria in Amman, Jordan, September 15, 2015. © 2015 Raad Adayleh/AP Photo

Syrian President Bashar al-Assad has welcomed more foreign travel recently as Arab capitals normalize relations with the Syrian government. But Syrian civilians looking to go abroad are not so lucky.

Since 2011, the process of renewing Syrians’ passports has not been straightforward, incurring countless interruptions and skyrocketing costs. In late 2022, authorities cited multiple reasons for processing delays including the exhaustion of printing supplies. Syrians have longstanding complaints about the scarcity of appointments and difficulties registering through the online portal.

Passport processing in most embassies and inside Syria now appears to be largely halted, with no explanation from authorities. Syrians are reporting difficulties reserving passport appointments, arriving with paperwork but being turned away without explanation, or having to pay excessive amounts to facilitate the process. A few embassies, including in Amman, claim to be processing passports within weeks, but others say all normal and expedited renewals are on hold.

Renewing Syrian passports has been a debacle since the closure of the majority of embassies and consulates over the course of Syria’s brutal civil war. Syrians have had to find creative ways to get their passports from the few remaining open embassies or from inside Syria despite several bans on shipping them. Authorities have also raised prices astronomically for Syrians abroad seeking to renew their passports; USD$300 for normal processing and $800 for an expedited passport.

These delays are severely limiting Syrians’ freedom of movement and impacting their livelihoods. A Syrian student in Europe told Human Rights Watch in June that he has been waiting over two months for his new passport so he can travel to see his family, but has been told by nearby embassies that renewals are on hold. Another Syrian in the United Arab Emirates (UAE) chose to send his passport to Syria and pay the expedited fee. It has been over two months with no updates, and he could soon lose his UAE residency.

As foreign governments extend invitations to the Syrian government, effectively welcoming it back into the international fold without pushing for justice for the crimes it committed over 12 years of war, ordinary Syrians continue to face the consequences of years of conflict and government corruption. All normalization efforts need to put the rights of Syrians first.

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