Congrats Lebanon, We Have The World’s 9th Worst Passport

Oh so close. We almost dropped out of the top ten this year, but no such luck.

After all the hassle secondary to our General Security deciding out of the blue that a good bunch of the country’s passport would no longer be functional, it’s safe to say that apart from that useless bureaucracy, very minimal improvement has occurred to the state of our travel document over the past year. After all, how could it given that the only semblance of governance we get is when Saudi Arabia is upset at us?

Henley & Partners, the world’s leading Citizenship research consultancy firm, published their yearly report about passport strengths – the same one that gets us upset every year – and we’re at #96 when it comes to the worst passports of the world, in a list that tops at #104 with Afghanistan. We share the #96 spot, which translates to the 9th worst passport in the world with Bangladesh, Congo and Sri Lanka.

The bottom 10 is as follows:

  1. Afghanistan,
  2. Pakistan,
  3. Iraq,
  4. Somalia,
  5. Syria,
  6. Libya,
  7. Sudan, Palestine, Nepal, Eritrea, Ethiopia, Iran,
  8. Kosovo, South Sudan, Yemen,
  9. Bangladesh, Congo, Lebanon, Sri Lanka,
  10. Burundi, North Korea, Myanmar.

Meanwhile, a slew of European and American countries top the list with passports that give them access to more 170 countries visa-free. We are allowed access to 39.

The highest ranking Arab country is the UAE at #38 with a passport that grants them visa-free entry to 122 countries. The highest ranking regional country, however, is Cyprus at #17 with 159 visa-free country, bolstered by the fact it’s in the European Union. Our enemy to the South, meanwhile, comes in at #25 with around 147 countries its citizens can enter without a hassle.

The situation is not that bleak, however, because our passport rank has actually gone up from last year, mostly because a bunch of countries fell below us such as Syria, South Sudan and Iraq:

Lebanon Passport

We have, however, gained two more visa-free countries to travel to in the past year, up to 39.

There’s nothing more indicative about how being born somewhere is detrimental to your “worth” as a person as the hierarchy behind passports, a yearly reminder that if you happen to come from a place that is not Europe, not America, and not completely in the good graces of either of those two entities, your worth is inherently lower.

But that’s not the full explanation behind how low our passport and citizenship ranks. This rank is a reflection of the unstable political situation in a country that hasn’t had a president in almost two years and doesn’t seem like it will have one anytime soon, hasn’t managed to vote for a parliament in over 1000 days, has garbage piling up on its streets, has one of the most incompetent ruling classes to exist, has a militia roaming its lands with the ability to shake the country up at will (as in protests because of a caricature on a TV show).

Look at the UAE. A few years ago, they had only access to 64 countries without visas. In 2016, their citizens can visit double that number. Why so? Because their ruling class – new-age dictators and whatnot – have a clear vision for a future that enables their citizens to be the best version of themselves (within the limited freedom confines offered of course). We can make fun all we want of how fake Dubai is, of how silly it is to have a “Happiness” minister, but the fact remains that not only are Emiratis leagues above us now, they are also in an upward trajectory while we slumber in our lower ranks content that we have real snow and not a fake slope built inside a Dubai mall.

United Arab Emirates Passport

What can we do to fix this?

We need to be more aware citizens. We can’t bury our heads in the glories of days past and pretend that is a representation of our present. When the time comes to vote, we shouldn’t go back to what we know thinking it’s what we need – we need to see that there are alternatives to the parties that have been ruining our lives for years. As long as our politicians keep getting a blank space from us to do whatever they want, they’ll be content with keeping a status quo that enables them and disables us, including a passport that forces everyone to stay put – unless they were lucky enough to have a second one on the side to use at will.

 

Everything You Need To Know About The “New” Lebanese Passport Rules

  
4 days prior to a deadline that was suddenly imposed on every single Lebanese, it turns out that the passports we paid hundreds of thousands of Lebanese liras to renew recently are turning obsolete.

The Why:

Our passports are ancient. They lack biometric data that have become standard all around the world. Moreover, renewal with handwritten notes is also against international regulations.

Over the past year, Lebanon’s General Security stopped renewing passports and started issuing new ones instead. Of course, unless you knew someone doing a passport within the last year, there would have been no way for you to know of such regulation.

The How:

Starting January 10th, no Lebanese will be allowed to travel out of the country using a passport with handwritten renewal dates. That is to say if you paid 60,000 last year for renewal or 300,000 for a 5 year extension, you are out of luck: you will be stopped at the airport, your passport confiscated and you will be sent back home to get a new passport.

If you’re abroad and coming to Lebanon, your passport will be confiscated the moment you arrive at the airport and then your Lebanese stay will become a bureaucratic mess of you trying to get a new passport in time.

The Details:

If you’re Lebanese in Lebanon, just go and apply for a new passport. The money you paid for a renewal will be lost, as would happen when you try to renew and the officer at the General Security thinks your picture is too young or too different.

If you’re a Lebanese coming from abroad, get your family here to ready passport papers for you at the nearest Mokhtar in order to have an easy path. You will need new passport sized pictures and a recent ID card.

If your ID card is not new (it still has your childhood picture), you will need an Ekhraj Eid in order to get the passport procedure rolling. Yay!

If you are one of those lucky people with long duration visas, your old passport will be attached to your current one meaning the visas will remain functional. 

It Will Get Worse:

The passport you’ll be getting is the same as the one you currently have, except it doesn’t have handwritten notes. In a few years, when they start using passports with biometric chips and data, they’ll force you to give up your old passport and pay another fee for a new one, a fee that promises to be higher than the exorbitant one we already pay. 

Why This Is Unacceptable:

It’s not my fault as a Lebanese citizen that my government is so inadequate that they couldn’t even properly inform its citizens of such regulations until 4 days prior to the deadline.

They said that they issued statements before. But those statements have not been picked up by media outlets and as such we had no way to know and were also issued on Christmas. Maybe we should have asked for new passports for Christmas instead?

You’d think an institution that makes sure to bombard you with their birthday propaganda or with any form of self-indulgent material would actually bother informing you about such an important event. But no, as it stands: the average Lebanese citizen is getting the short end of the stick, as usual.

Why do I have to pay again for a passport that I already paid for when it’s not even my fault that my passport is useless to begin with?

Till when do we, as Lebanese people, have to constantly be screwed by our government just because they have no idea what they’re doing?

Mabrouk people. In case you have travel plans, start panicking about actually being allowed to leave the country because your perfectly decent passports will become obsolete in 4 days. 

Some Lebanese Just Don’t Get It: Two Reactions on Lebanon’s Passport Ranking

It’s all about our passport lately, isn’t it? And isn’t it quite odd that our passport is being discussed so fervently by almost everyone given that the news that is seemingly new is actually anything but? I remember writing about it way back in July 2012 and nothing has changed since, as is expected obviously (link).

Well, there are two interesting reactions to observe regarding the latest non-original news about the Lebanese passport. The first is by some Lebanese regarding the ranking of our passport, a reaction that you can observe via the comments on the list that had us ranked in the ten worst passport list, which I’ve screenshot in the following gallery:

Lebanese people sometimes miss the bigger picture. Well, in the case of the aforementioned comments, the big picture was missed alright for the sake of a picture. Our passport sucks? Well, I guess that’s okay some Lebanese would say as long as the you show our girls rocking Skybar and our men holding their favorite alcoholic drinks and flashing their million dollar smiles to Beiruting cameras. It’s also the case with all those Lebanese feel-good short movies that give everyone a happiness boost to get them through a day. Denial can go a long way.

Of course, denial is what the second reaction to our passport ranking is all about as well but it’s at a higher level as Lebanon’s General Security apparatus had an official statement on the matter that went almost as follows: Nope, nope they got it all wrong. This is what happens when things get lost in translation. Our passport is actually one of the best!

I’m not kidding. The official text, as translated by yours truly, goes as follows:

“Some news platforms have incorrectly translated a report labeling Lebanon’s among the top ten worst passports in the world, which affected Lebanon’s image. In fact, the Lebanese passport is among the best in the world and will soon adopt biometric standards which provides its holders with more benefits, making the Lebanese passport similar with international standards.”

I didn’t know the merits of a passport were contingent upon the way it is. To tell you the truth, I have no idea what General Security mean by whatever they wanted to say. Is our passport awesome because of its navy blue color? Remind me to consult with some fashion expert and see if navy blue is in.

Is our passport awesome because it has a golden cedar on it? But I thought those cedars were being uprooted in Bcharre for the wedding of a former MP’s son. Is our passport superior because it’s expensive? Lebanese logic seems to dictate as such.

Is our passport grand because its first page tells its holder that losing this document is punishable whereas most other countries inform their passport’s holder that they would go to the ends of the Earth to defend them? Our security apparatus would definitely think that is great.

Is our passport the best because it will soon have a biometric imprint that has been available for years and years now in the passports of all those countries that can access much more countries than we can, including some countries that we like to laugh about? I’m sure General Security thinks improvement renders us the best. Will that make our passport even more expensive? That’d make General Security happier too.

Except, of course, a passport’s merits aren’t in the way it looks, its size or the feeling it has in your hand or how efficiently it gets scanned at border controls. But don’t tell people that because we can twist any simple data we have into whatever gets us to sleep better at night. Let’s call it a way of life. Let’s call it perpetuating the status quo. Do Lebanese really want to improve their passport? By the looks of it, many of them probably couldn’t care less.

The World’s Worst Passports: Leish Fi A7la Men Lebnen?

Lebanese passport

The passport of yours truly

As a Lebanese, you certainly do not need to travel. You have everything you need in the confines of our infinitely beautiful country.

I mean, why would anyone want to go do anything outside of Lebanon? We have the world’s best beaches, the prettiest women, the best nightlife, the best nature sceneries, the best food, the best wine, the best everything this world has to offer.

And in case you got bored, don’t worry. There’s almost always something happening somewhere. Who would want to have the boring routine life of those pesky Europeans and Americans who think they’re better than us, with all their rules and regulations. Seriously, why would anyone want to be limited like that?

As such, ladies and gentlemen, we are in good company on a worst passports of the world list. Not that it should matter, right? The list (link) ranking the world’s worst passports has us with all those places that we love to bash, always thinking we’re better than them, always thinking their people are so much lesser than us.

Who’s on that list? Countries such as Afghanistan, Iraq, Somalia, Eritrea, Kosovo, Pakistan, Palestine, Nepal, Sudan, Sri Lanka. Even while typing those countries, my head was listing every single joke that we, as Lebanese, have made about the people who come from those places. I guess the joke’s on us now. Those women will be livid they’re on the same list as their maids, no?

Certainly, many will now say that I’m being overly negative, that I’m being overly melodramatic when it pertains to the situation in our country, especially when it comes to the matter at hand. There will be those who have absolutely no problem with this situation because having it the other way around would mean Lebanon being in bed with all those imperialistic nations that are ruling the world and forgetting the struggles of the region we’re in. There will be those who have absolutely no problem with all the paperwork required to have countries possibly consider granting you access, maybe, to their countries and who find that addressing the issue is not important because, seriously, ma fi a7la men lebnen.

Perhaps such rankings make sense. We are in a place that can push even the most resilient and positive of people to their breaking point. Some of them even decide to leave. And I know I’ve talked about such a thing before – it’s basically why I was hesitant to write about the issue again. But is the ranking making sense reason enough to be content? What is the solution?

Talking about the state of the Lebanese passport isn’t because we like to have paperwork-free vacations in France, which I personally would love to have. It’s because our passport situation is a clear reflection of the situation that our citizenship and country bestow upon us, one that many love to turn a blind eye to because it doesn’t go hand in hand with the good image we want to portray of Lebanon and the joie de vivre we are all known for. Or maybe some of us are.

Getting our passport up to par has a pre-requisite, which is getting our citizenship up to par. It means pushing every Lebanese not to want to seek out a better life elsewhere. It means having a state that can provide for us the basic necessities in the best form possible, and then some. It means having decent roads, electricity, water, internet, equality, security, accountability, democracy. It means not having our passport system be so corrupt that we have to pay $200, effectively making our passport the most expensive in the world, for something that is this worthless.

Some of those elements are a struggle, sure. But they surely won’t happen with politicians who are content to have a diplomatic passport that can take them anywhere, who renew their mandate whenever they feel like it and who, whether we like it or not, would get re-elected anyway. The hell with us, it seems. And such an issue, in my opinion, will never be redundant. But nevermind me because seriously, fi a7la men lebnen?

Lebanon’s Phone Registration Procedure Needs To Be Rethought

My iPhone 5 fell in water almost a month ago. I didn’t know, so it sat in a puddle absorbing all the moisture it can get until its screen went bust.

We don’t have certified personnel for the iPhone in the country who can fix it and I’ll be sure they’re providing the best possible material. The man I took my iPhone to wanted to switch the screen to something that looked fishy, cost $200 and didn’t even work that well. He blamed my phone.

That same screen would cost about $300 in places around Beirut. So I decided to follow my instinct and send my phone to my family abroad for an out of warranty replacement, which is what happened.

The phone was brought into the country by an old man I barely knew and who had no idea he should register the phone at the airport. I figured it’s not a big deal, I’ll just take my passport the following day and head out to the nearest telecom center to get the procedure done.

That wasn’t possible. My passport didn’t work because I had been in Lebanon for more than a month since I traveled last. Obviously, dragging the 85 year old man who brought in the phone to one of those centers was out of the question. So what was I supposed to do to get my phone working on our networks?

I was lucky enough to know an exchange student who had been in the country for two weeks. So he did me a favor, fetched his passport and registered the phone for me. The process, advertised to be easy and seamless, took half a day and several car trips around Beirut just for something that should be second nature to anyone who gets a phone: the device getting reception. I have no clue what I would have done hadn’t the exchange student been available.

It is said these procedures are to prevent illegal smuggling of devices, provide another source of income for our government and basically make our life “easier” when it comes to phone purchases. But is that happening with phone prices taking a hike and the procedure having many parts of it that are apparently not thought out?

What if a relative sends you a gift from abroad with someone you don’t know at all and that person doesn’t register it. Are you supposed to take a trip to Syria just to get your passport stamped in order to get your phone to work?

I checked the online brochure the ministry posted back in May to see if there was a workaround on the matter. There was none. If you purchased a device online, you’d have a way to get it registered after paying the exorbitant taxes and using the customs’ receipt. But you’re basically out of luck in case you don’t have a recently stamped passport at your disposal.

Buying a phone and getting it to work by inserting a sim is apparently too simple for a country like this. But it’s all okay as long as we keep providing revenue for the government.

The Uselessness of the Lebanese Passport: Lebanese Band The Wanton Bishops Refused UK Visa

We pretend fleetingly that the situation of the Lebanese passport is acceptable. Sure we have to wait a while to get our visas. Sure we get preferential treatment at airports sometimes. Sure we sometimes get special queues reserved for us. But it’s the way things are.

A friend of mine who was traveling to the United States was pulled aside during his layover to be questioned. They immediately recoiled when he told them he was in a possession of a permanent residency.

My best friend went to hell and back trying to procure a visa to go to Europe for nothing more but touristic purposes where he’d spend his well-earned money and return.

Our passport is the world’s most expensive and grants is enters to so few countries we’ve come second to last position. And we are all victims – except the politicians who should work on fixing the situation but are so pleased with their special passport that they couldn’t care less about us poor commoners.

The latest casualty in the ongoing Lebanese passport massacre are local band The Wanton Bishops who were supposed to participate in a festival in the United Kingdom and who had their visa application to the UK rejected as per their tweet:

20130620-151608.jpg

I guess those visa rejections our passports amass are exactly what’s needed to make us stand out in the crowd of those who book airplane tickets and fly away. They’re exactly what is needed to know precisely what those embassies we apply to think of us.

Ease of bureaucracy, who needs you. Plenty of opportunities, who needs you too. But hey, at least we’re proud to have some parts of the country on terrorist lists everywhere.

The Visa Situation for the Lebanese Passport

It’s bad people. Really bad. Remember when I was complaining about Lebanon being one of 39 countries that has to wait 10 days on average for the Schengen visa? If you don’t, then here it is.

It turns out the situation is much worse than having to wait 10 days for a Schengen visa. We, as Lebanese, can access 33 countries without needing visas. 33 sounds appealing? Well, the #1 countries in the world, Denmark, Sweden and Finland, can access 173 countries.

In a 2011 study, conducted by Henley & Partners, Lebanon ranked 97 out of 110 countries and behind countries such as Iran, Egypt.

In fact, in a 2010 study conducted by the same company (check it out here), we are also behind North Korea. And it doesn’t stop there. We are also on brochures that tell travelers about Lebanon being one of the countries with the most visa restrictions.

 

I have to ask though: why is the situation this bad? Other neighboring countries, who share our geographical location and the whole baggage of the Middle East, have a better situation that we do.

It could be that our Ministry of Foreign affairs is doing a horrible job, which I think is true. I mean, have you heard that “minister” asking the president to halt in filing a protest against Syrian violation of our land pending investigations? When you have people like that in charge of these types of relations, where do you expect to get?

Or could it be that all those other countries simply refuse to permit headache-free entry for Lebanese travelers?

I would tend to think it’s the former – that governments throughout the years have been and are doing such a bad job with foreign relations that with each passing day our passport loses whatever negligible value it had. And it’s actually very sad.

What’s the best passport to seek out in case you want to go anywhere you want and still retain your Lebanese citizenship? It seems like Sweden is a good fit. Denmark doesn’t allow dual citizenships.

A word for our minister of foreign affairs though, the citizens of the country that he has no problem getting up in a fit for whenever they violate our country can access 142 countries. Just saying.