Passport = freedom of movement or immobility
Updated: Apr 24
Or: The power of passports.
The passport translates to freedom of movement for some and immobility for others – depending on the country of origin.
About this topic from my own experience:
Sri Lanka, January 2019: I was upset as I had just spent 1.5 h on my laptop to apply for my 60-day tourist visa for India. “This takes forever, all the stuff that they want to know; and on top of that they are charging me 80 USD, last year it was only 60 USD.”
Back then I was teaching yoga at a hotel and yoga retreat centre in the mountains of Sri Lanka, owned and run by an Englishman and his Sri Lankan partner. When I was telling her about my ‘difficulties’ with the visa application, she opened up about her attempt of getting an EU-visa, to travel together with her partner to his home country. So far, her efforts were futile. Stated reason for denial by the authorities: “She is a flight risk”.
This example made clear to me, what I actually already knew (but, which had quite successfully slipped out of my consciousness): An inequality in terms of the global mobility opportunities is taking place – in favour of the ‘western world’. Thereby, mobility (or the chance to it) becomes a monopolistic resource – we take advantage of it, while it´s being denied to others, or they need to go through long, pricy and by no means promising procedures.
With 188 country, that Germans can enter without a visa, we are currently ranked number 2, behind Japan, South Korea and Singapore, that with 189 countries tie for first place. Also ranking amongst the top in the international comparison of freedom to travel, are North and Western European countries.
Very limited in terms of freedom to travel are citizens from most African and Asian states as well as people from conflict and war-torn regions. The last five spots are taken up by: Pakistan (33 countries, that Pakistanis can travel to without a visa), Somalia and Syria (32 each), Iraq and Afghanistan (30 each).
The most recent passport-ranking in terms of visa exemptions can be found here:
Why this blog post? I don’t want to make anyone feel bad about travelling or relieve myself of a guilty conscience. I would just like everyone to be fully aware of these facts (and to maintain awareness), especially when we are travelling. To view granted visa exemptions as a privilege – owed to the lucky circumstance that come with our country of origin.
Book recommendation (only available in German): Stephan Lessenich, one of Germanys leading sociologists, talks about this and other topics concerning out of proportion world-situations in his book “Neben uns die Sinnflut” (translates to: “Alongside us the deluge”)