Passport has become Lebanese dream (Anwar Amr / AFP)
The issue of Lebanese passports has returned to the forefront after the General Directorate of Public Safety announced last April 27 that the electronic platform dedicated to filing and renewing passport applications had been suspended, as its stock almost ran out due to demand. great for. him, while not providing the necessary funds to make up for the shortfall. In a country where half the population aspires to emigrate, the results of a survey prepared by the Arab research network Barometer and published last month, showed that “Lebanese are more pessimistic about their country’s economic future amid crises and bad conditions of living. “
The General Directorate of Public Safety had made it clear in its statement issued at the end of April that “to date, the contracting company has not paid the value of the signed contract, which has led to the postponement of the delivery of the required quantity. The directorate was forced to stop working on the platform, in order to maintain security credibility. ” The public is faced with the citizens for not giving them new appointments without the possibility of receiving them, until the interested parties take the necessary actions and provide the necessary funds. “
However, according to the latest developments in this case, the General Director of Public Security, Major General Abbas Ibrahim, revealed in an interview with one of the recent news sites, that he had contacted “Last Friday, the Minister of Finance Youssef Khalil, and assured him that things (…) are nearing completion, He promised to transfer money after Eid al-Fitr. Ibrahim added: “Knowing that the Ministry of Finance asked us to change some terms with the company as the value of the contract increased from 22 billion Lebanese pounds (about 14.5 million US dollars at the official exchange rate and about 830 thousand dollars according to the exchange rate. parallel market) to mil 300 billion. ” (about $ 198 million at the official exchange rate and about $ 11.3 million at the parallel market rate) due to the difference in the dollar exchange rate. He continued: “We did the job right away, but things took a long time and unjustified. I said to the Minister of Finance: Haxhi, take us and answer us and waste more time “.
According to Al-Araby Al-Jadeed sources, “the Lebanese state continues the process of procrastination, whether in terms of the payment mechanism for the company in question or the agreement on the US dollar exchange rate in light of the multiplication of exchange rates. “against the Lebanese pound, ignoring another fundamental human right in Lebanon.” The passport crisis, which has worsened since the beginning of the economic and financial crisis, has put the Lebanese people in oblivion, whether they aspire to emigrate and escape the difficult living situation, or seek a good living through a working abroad. of the country.
According to the World Bank, the unprecedented economic collapse in Lebanon, insecurity and deteriorating basic public services have pushed large numbers of families and young people to migrate.
No one is forbidden to travel
The editor-in-chief of Public Security magazine, Brigadier General Mounir Akiki, explained to Al-Araby Al-Jadeed that “the directorate created the platform in order to end the queues in front of public security centers and departments, but demand continued to grow and the platform was fills with meetings that last until April 2023, which are covered by the current stock. ” (Passports), including the issuance of 200 thousand passports, pending the provision of new quantities.
While Akiki hopes to “resolve the crisis within a week and stop the farce, especially after we have completed all administrative procedures to request additional quantities since July 2021”, he emphasizes that “passport is a natural right guaranteed by law and is a sovereign document for Lebanon, therefore it should not be The right of the people is a game in this field, it also constitutes one of the revenues of the state treasury “, emphasizing that” once the state takes the initiative to pay the required amount. we will resume work on the platform and it is possible to achieve larger figures that can reach three thousand passports per day.
Regarding the possibility of renewing the old passport with a stamp, Brigadier General Akiki states that this is not possible, as we are committed to the international standards set by the International Civil Aviation Organization (ICAO), which hinder the renewal of passport because the data, personal data and the validity of the passport are shown only with the code (code). ) induction ”.
Akiki links the conditions previously set by the General Security to obtaining a passport to “extraordinary circumstances that sometimes forced us to give priority to people who have to travel. They are not conditions of disability, but rather mitigating and will not to be if we live in normal conditions “, emphasizing,” We do not hinder anyone. ” to travel. ”Akiki adds that“ at a time when immigrants can renew their passports abroad, some of them come to Lebanon because the cost is much lower. As a result, these immigrants book appointments through the platform, which in turn causes increased pressure and delays the appointments of others. the citizens who live here ”.
Public safety centers had witnessed daily accumulation and high demand for passports, which led the directorate to determine the daily number of applications and then approve the platform mentioned in early 2022, so some citizens received very late appointments .
Prisoners in hell
While obtaining a passport is a right sanctioned in the Lebanese constitution, the decision to ban the receipt of new applications provoked angry reactions on social media, denouncing the “lack of everything” in Lebanon and one of the activists said: “We are officially imprisoned. in hell “, while another comments” Welcome to house arrest “. There are questions about the possibility of entering the” broker market and the black market “.
Ghina Al-Jardi, one of those who submitted their applications days before the platform closed, told Al-Araby Al-Jadeed: “I did not intend to renew my passport, but when I learned about the possibility of my passport being terminated, I did so. “Only as a precaution. Unfortunately, I could not get an appointment.” The young woman, who specializes in psychology, regrets the Lebanese inability to leave his country. We have become prisoners here “, asking ourselves:” Why not make things easier for the citizens? There are those whose future and livelihood are tied to a passport. “
For her part, Aya Iskandar tells “The New Arab” that she had struggled to get a passport that would allow her to travel to a Gulf country from which she received a job offer in the field of accounting. Before the platform was created, she visited a security center about ten times without any results, as she says, “before going to the main center and applying for an emergency passport.”
As for Karim, who has preferred to be identified with this nickname, he notes that he was able, “by the way”, to get a new passport. He explained to Al-Araby Al-Jadeed: “At first I tried to apply through the platform, but I got an appointment late and could not wait. Then I went to one of my acquaintances and got the passport before its cost. Increased . “
Death boats are our only breath
Gad Al-Masry expresses his fear that he may not renew his passport, especially since he has been promised a possible job abroad. He told Al-Araby Al-Jadeed: “Even leaving this country has become difficult and forbidden. We have already reached a dead end and a tragic situation.” Al-Masry asks: “How can we blame the citizens who migrate aboard the death boats, endangering their lives and the lives of their children? We live in humiliation, oppression and inhumanity even when we decide to leave the country, in addition to our suffering daily with high prices, the unsettled security situation and deprivation of the most basic things of life ”.
In a similar context, Sarah Baghdadi reveals that she came to Lebanon with her two daughters to renew their passports so that they could later renew their residence in Kuwait, but she could not leave an appointment , after the General Security announced the suspension of work on the platform, and therefore it is today in a state of waiting. Baghdadi told Al-Araby Al-Jadeed that she did not submit the applications through the Lebanese embassy in Kuwait, “because it takes about four months and the result here is worse.”
And the General Directorate of Public Safety had made it clear in its above-mentioned statement that “anyone who has a meeting on the platform will be provided with a passport, according to the date given earlier”, noting that the departments of the directorate and its regional. Centers have shown since 2020 a great pressure on demand. “Passports have been exceeded dozens of times in previous years, which has affected their inventory.”