Iraqi passport system bogs down in shenanigans

The Baghdad passport office was closed for several weeks last month in a bribery crackdown. According to the Jordan Times, several people were arrested and jailed. (Articles remain online for a week) :

Last month, several Jordan Times sources in Baghdad confirmed that many individuals had been arrested and jailed for corruption and accepting bribes, resulting in the closure of the Baghdad passport office for several weeks. The office has since been reopened.

“Corruption is still occurring despite the arrests… with around $700 or a ‘wasta,’ your application is moved along quickly,” one source told The Jordan Times.

The Iraqi ambassador in Amman, however, dismissed these claims as “rumours and nonsense.” [Iraqi Ambassador to Jordan Saad Jasem Al] Hayani explained that although the option to travel to Iraq may be offered to Iraqis in Jordan, it is not necessary.

“Any Iraqi who wishes to change his passport can send his application from Amman and each new issuance requires the right identity documents, fingerprinting, a signature and JD15 [27,500 Iraqi dinars],” he added.

This reminds me of a rumor about the visa section of the U.S. embassy that was floating around Amman. Supposedly there was someone selling visas for ten thousand dollars each and they couldn’t figure out who it was. So they transferred everyone in the visa department to different countries, just to stop the corruption. The story doesn’t ring true–how would they know there was corruption unless they also knew who was doing it?–but it’s a good indicator of the general view Arabs have for Americans as being incorruptible.

The Iraqi government has issued a new “G series” passport to replace the “S series” passport which some Western countries no longer accept. Some Iraqis have been traveling to Baghdad to speed the process which can take two to five weeks. So far, the Amman embassy has processed 4,000 of 12,000 requests, so Jordan has extended the original June 1 deadline and will continue to accept the “S series” passport until December 2007.

Obtaining the latest ‘G’ passport, depending on which of the four types of passport (N, M, H, or S) an Iraqi has, can be a confusing, costly and often dangerous process.

Adding to the confusion, when the applications of holders of M, N or H passports are processed it does not necessarily mean they automatically receive a ‘G’ passport. Documents marked ‘N’ and ‘M’ may be upgraded to ‘S’ series due to massive demand and because of a decision to eliminate previous passports one at a time.

The handwritten ‘S’ series passport was introduced following the US-led invasion in March 2003 but was soon deemed invalid by many countries due to substandard features which make it vulnerable to alteration.

No wonder the system is bogged down. They are doing everything twice–upgrade to “S”, then make the people wait, then upgrade to “G”, and in the meantime they can’t move on….oh, but if there’s a bribe involved at each stage, they can collect twice as many bribes…

Like I said before, no wonder the system is bogged down.

One Response to “Iraqi passport system bogs down in shenanigans”

  1. Alive In Baghdad Says:

    […] Baghdad, Iraq – It may go without saying that Iraq’s passport offices are crowded and their employees overworked. With so many Iraqis leaving the country, passports are at a premium. In 2006 we reported on the difficulties Iraqis were having obtaining passports, and their desperation to flee the country. There are many issues affecting the availability of passports, from the machines and manpower to print them, to the corruption running rampant in the application process […]

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