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Sun 14 Aug 2011 09:38 AM

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Arab Spring curbs visa-free travel for citizens

Political unrest sees visa restrictions tighten for citizens of some Arab states

Arab Spring curbs visa-free travel for citizens
Kuwait ranked top among the Gulf states, followed by Qatar, the UAE and Saudi

Visa
restrictions for citizens of some Arab states have tightened in the wake of the
Arab Spring that spurred violent uprisings across the region, a new report has
found.

According to Henley & Partners’ Visa
Restrictions Index, a global ranking of 194 countries according to the travel
freedoms their citizen enjoy, passport holders from parts of the Arab world now
need visas to enter more countries.

Citizens
of Bahrain, which imposed martial law and called in Gulf troops after
widespread anti-regime protests, have visa-free access to 65 countries – two
less than in the previous rankings.

Tunisia,
the catalyst behind the Arab Spring revolts, saw its ranking fall to 63, while
citizens of Egypt can now only enter 41 countries without visas.

The
lowest-ranked Arab countries were Lebanon and Afghanistan, whose citizens have
visa-free access to 33 and 24 countries respectively.

Theodore
Karasik, director of research at the Dubai-based Institute for Near East and
Gulf Military Analysis, said “there is an increase in visa restriction for the
region across the board” as a result of violence as a result of the Arab
Spring.

“A lot
of this is partly due to not pressures from outside countries but from
pressures within the countries themselves about who is travelling where and for
what,” he said. “It is all security-related and for protection.”

The index
reflects relationships between individual nations, as well as the status of a
country within the international community.

Kuwait ranked top
among the Gulf states, with its citizens able to travel freely to 71 countries
and territories.

The UAE, which
has sidestepped the unrest that affected neighbouring Bahrain and Oman, saw its
rankings rise on its image as a safe haven. Citizens have visa-free access to
67 states, while those from Qatar can travel freely to 66 states.

Saudi Arabia
ranked lower, with citizens given open access to 58 states.

Ongoing
violence also impacted Libya’s and Syria’s visa scores – citizens can visit
just 38 and 37 countries visa-free – but the biggest impact was seen on
Pakistan.

The
Asian country saw its ranking fall five points, placing it in the bottom two.
Citizens of the Asian state, which earlier this year was found to be the hiding
place of al Qaeda leader, Osama bin Laden, can visit just 31 countries
visa-free.

Karasik
believed Arab states were likely to fall even further down the list in the 2012
rankings as the fallout from the region’s political unrest spurs security
concerns.

“I
think that is a natural process. It is not something to point fingers at, it is
a security question about changes in the region,” he said.

Scandinavian
countries dominated the top of the rankings with Denmark, Sweden and Finland
sharing the top spot on a score of 173.

Germany placed in second,
with visa-free access to 172 countries, while the UK, the Netherlands,
Luxembourg, France, Belgium and Italy placed third in the rankings.

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Tariq 9 years ago

Afghanistan is not an Arab country!

Jad Aoun 9 years ago

^^^^ Afghanistan is not an Arab country! ^^^^

Yaser 9 years ago

It happens frequently; where basic knowledge is lacking. At least some one in Arabian Business should know which is an Arab country and which is not.

Reem 9 years ago

Where are Palestinains with travel documents classified?!! Do these millions exist anywhere in the analysis/ratings?
These are only allowed visa-free entry to probably no more than two countries in the world!!
Does the international community know that the entry restrictions imposed by their Arab "brothers" way surpass those placed on them by the rest of the world, regardless of their education, social status, and occupation?!!

John Harte 9 years ago

A Palestinian colleague was granted a visa to the UK for an academic conference but was refused a visa to this part of the world.....so much for brotherly relations.

Sultan 9 years ago

i'm sure they meant MUSLIM countries and people but they won't use that kind of classification because it will provoke prejudice on the side of the institutes that decide our travel "freedoms"

Joseph 9 years ago

I am afraid Sultan may be correct, and also agree with Yaser's observation.