Syria promises to renew passports for citizens living abroad

Syria promises to renew passports for citizens living abroad
Syrians who left the country "illegally" will be able to obtain new passports, or renew old ones, without going through intelligence clearance.
2 min read
26 April, 2015
Syrians will soon be able to renew their passports without intelligence clearance [Getty]
The Syrian regime has said it will allow citizens living abroad to obtain passports without intelligence clearance, in a landmark move that may make life easier for thousands of people who have fled the bitter violence in the country.

Nearly four million Syrians have left the country since the uprising began, with most living in refugee camps in neighbouring Turkey, Jordan and Lebanon.

A newspaper with close links to the Syrian leadership said that the move would "create an appropriate climate" for talks in Geneva next month.

The newspaper also reported that fees for the new procedures are to be doubled to $400 for a new passport and $200 for a renewal.

This will provide an important source of foreign exchange for the cash-strapped country.

It was reported that the changes to passport procedures were sent to Syrian embassies around the world on Thursday.

This authorised embassies "to issue or renew passports for Syrians abroad without having to go through the department of emigration and passports in Damascus", al-Watan reported.

The report also said that passports would be issued to Syrians who left "illegally", or if they hold non-official passports or travel documents.

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.

Although the news comes as relief to millions of Syrians living abroad, many opposition figures have reacted with scepticism.

They believe that the higher fees will strengthen the Syrian regime, which has suffered a recent series of military defeats, or that Damascus will backtrack on its promises.