Threat of mass migration forces Lebanon to suspend passport renewals
Lebanese General Security announced this week that passport renewals would be suspended. The stock of passports will cover only current applicants. As the country’s worsening economic crisis pushes people to flee, the Lebanese government has stopped accepting applications for passport renewals.
Fears have been raised that authorities are trying to limit people’s freedom of movement by blocking them from leaving Lebanon. There are scheduled appointments for passport applications until April 2023. Passports will be delivered to all applicants who have applied before then. As of 2020, more than ten times as many Lebanese have applied for updated biometric passports as they did last year.
Lebanon’s General Security conducted a study and found that 69 percent of citizens obtained passports they did not use. In addition, about 20,000 passports were renewed in 2021, though the documents would have expired in two more years. More than 15,000 passports were processed, but never claimed by their owners, according to the study.
In February, revised passport renewal conditions were issued that some thought would be impossible to meet. Passport renewal requirements included current residency abroad, a visa attached to the renewal passport, an embassy appointment within a month, studies abroad, medical reports, or a signed contract if it was for work abroad.
An emigration wave from Lebanon is predicted by the Lebanon Crisis Observatory at the American University of Beirut. Young people are considering emigrating at a rate of 77 percent, while professionals are also leaving for better working conditions and income. Thousands of Lebanese have left the country in the last two years, including teachers, doctors, nurses and university graduates. The number of departures has increased since the explosion in the Beirut port two years ago.
According to the World Bank, Lebanon will need at least 12 years to return to its 2017 level of gross domestic product. There will be pressure on hundreds of thousands of people to leave the country in order to work, study, retire, and invest abroad because of this situation, the bank said.