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TRAVEL APARTHEID

How powerful is your country’s passport?

FILE PHOTO: Thailand bans entry from 8 African countries over the coronavirus Omicron variant
Chalinee Thirasup
FILE PHOTO: Foreign tourists wait for their flight at the Bangkok’s International Suvarnabhumi Airport as Thailand bans entry from 8 African countries due to the…
  • Anne Quito
By Anne Quito

Design and architecture reporter

Published Last updated

For the third year in a row, Singapore and Japan have the most powerful passports in the world. According to data from the International Air Transport Association, analyzed by immigration consultants Henley& Partners, citizens of those two nations can travel to 192 of 227 destinations without having to secure a visa.

On the bottom of the list—seven places below North Korea—is Afghanistan, where nationals can gain visa-free access to just 26 countries and territories. Several states severed diplomatic ties with the beleaguered country after the Taliban seized power in August.

Henley’s analysts point out that the latest ranking reflects the greatest disparity between nations at the top and bottom of the list since it began the survey 17 years ago.

The top-ranked countries

1
Japan
192
Singapore
192
2
Germany
190
South Korea
190
3
Finland
189
Italy
189
Luxembourg
189
Spain
189
4
Austria
188
Denmark
188
France
188
Netherlands
188
Sweden
188
5
Ireland
187
Portugal
187
6
Belgium
186
New Zealand
186
Norway
186
Switzerland
186
United Kingdom
186
United States
186
7
Australia
185
Canada
185
Czech Republic
185
Greece
185
Malta
185
8
Hungary
183
Poland
183
9
Lithuania
182
Slovakia
182
10
Estonia
181
Latvia
181
Slovenia
181

The bottom 10

101
Congo (Democratic Republic)
42
Iran
42
102
Lebanon
41
Sri Lanka
41
Sudan
41
103
Bangladesh
40
Kosovo
40
Libya
40
104
North Korea
39
105
Nepal
37
Palestinian Territory
37
106
Somalia
34
107
Yemen
33
108
Pakistan
31
109
Syria
29
110
Iraq
28
111
Afghanistan
26

Covid’s impact on borders

Of course, politics isn’t the only thing at play during a pandemic. Covid-19 has countries asking travelers to present an ever-changing list of entry forms, QR codes, and testing reports to secure entry, and the emergence of new variants has resulted in a number of wholesale travel bans between countries, however limited in duration.

Most recently, the highly transmissible omicron variant resulted in a kind of “travel apartheid” against poorer nations, UN secretary-general Antonio Guterres said last month. Speaking in New York, Guterres decried blanket travel bans based on nationality as both “deeply unfair” and ultimately ineffective; he argued that only regular testing will slow the spread of covid.

Swiss health expert Andreas Brauchlin raised an additional point in a recent blog post: The freedom and mobility of a country’s citizens is likewise impacted by which vaccines they have access to, and whether they’ve been approved by the World Health Organization. “Vaccine passports, which once held the hope of negating the requirement for travel restrictions, are likely to expire after certain time periods,” Brauchlin wrote. “Seemingly, an individual’s health and vaccination status are as influential on mobility as their passport’s visa-free access.”

📬 A periodic dispatch from the annual session of the United Nations General Assembly in NYC.

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