Smoke rises in the rebel-held town of Douma, northeast of Damascus, following reported heavy shelling and air strikes by government forces on the town on June 16, 2015, according the Syrian Observatory of Human Rights
Smoke rises in the rebel-held town of Douma, northeast of Damascus, following reported heavy shelling and air strikes by government forces on the town on June 16, 2015, according the Syrian Observatory of Human Rights © Abd Doumany - AFP/File
Smoke rises in the rebel-held town of Douma, northeast of Damascus, following reported heavy shelling and air strikes by government forces on the town on June 16, 2015, according the Syrian Observatory of Human Rights
AFP
Last updated: June 17, 2015

Surge in passport applications as Syrians flee

Banner Icon Syria has seen a surge in passport requests as citizens seek to flee the war-torn country, with close to a million applications lodged since January 1, media said on Wednesday.

Syria has seen a surge in passport requests as citizens seek to flee the war-torn country, with close to a million applications lodged since January 1, media said on Wednesday.

The civil war has killed more than 230,000 people and displaced millions since it began in 2011.

"The number of passport applications this year, from inside and outside Syria, has reached close to one million, with an average of 5,000 requests a day," reported the daily Al-Watan, which is considered close to the regime.

That is five times the number of requests for the same period last year, the paper said.

In 2014, around 1,000 requests for passports were made daily, Al-Watan said, adding that the increase "shows that many Syrians see leaving as the only answer".

Applications were highest in Damascus and its surrounding province, with close to 360,000 requests filed -- around 2,000 each day.

Syria's economy is battling high inflation and around half the population is unemployed. The war has forced 10 million people from their homes, including just under four million who have fled to neighbouring countries.

In April, authorities decided to "facilitate" the issue of passports among Syrians living abroad, including some refugees.

The documents are now issued without the prior consent of Syria's security services, which used to have the final say on issuing all passports.

A presidential decree has doubled the cost of a new passport to $400 (355 euros), or $200 for a renewal.

Al-Watan said that around 40 percent of Syrians living abroad had passports which have expired.

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