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INCREASED TRAVEL FREEDOM

UAE 'biggest climber' on passport index

DUBAI, April 7, 2020

The UAE passport has emerged as the biggest climber on the latest rankings released by the Henley Passport Index, based on exclusive data from the International Air Transport Association (Iata), soaring a remarkable 47 places over the past decade to sit in 18th position.
 
Japan’s passport continues to hold the top spot on the index.  
 
However, the current reality is that most non-essential travel is curtailed for citizens of almost every country as more travel bans are implemented daily to due the spread of Covid-19, and ever-more stringent coronavirus lockdown regulations are imposed by governments worldwide.
 
Managing partner for Henley & Partners Dubai office, Philippe Amarante, said: “With 3.5 billion people, nearly half the global population, presently living in voluntary or mandatory confinement, the latest results from the index raise challenging questions about what travel freedom and global mobility really mean, both currently and in a deeply uncertain post-pandemic future.”
 
Dr Christian H. Kaelin, chairman of Henley & Partners and the inventor of the passport index concept, points out that in an unprecedented global health emergency such as this, relative passport strength becomes temporarily meaningless. “A Swiss citizen can, in theory, travel to 185 destinations around the world without needing a visa in advance, but the last few weeks have made it apparent that travel freedom is contingent on factors that occasionally can be utterly beyond our control. This is, of course, something that citizens of countries with weak passports in the lower ranks of the index are all too familiar with. As public health concerns and security rightfully take precedence over all else now, even within the otherwise borderless EU, this is an opportunity to reflect on what freedom of movement and citizenship essentially mean for those of us who have perhaps taken them for granted in the past.”
 
Commenting on the latest Henley Passport Index, Dr Parag Khanna said the combined effect of the Covid-19 pandemic on public health, the global economy, and social behaviour could lead to much deeper shifts in our human geography and future distribution around the world. “This may seem ironic given today’s widespread border closures and standstill in global transportation, but as the curtain lifts, people will seek to move from poorly governed and ill-prepared ‘red zones’ to ‘green zones’ or places with better medical care. Alternatively, people may relocate to places where involuntary quarantine, whenever it strikes next, is less torturous. In the US, both domestic and international migration were surging before the pandemic, with Gen-Xers and millennials shifting to cheaper, second-tier cities in the Sun Belt or abroad to Latin America and Asia in search of an affordable life. Once quarantines lift and airline prices stand at rock bottom, expect more people across the globe to gather their belongings and buy one-way tickets to countries affordable enough to start fresh.”
 
This is supported by emerging research and analysis commissioned by Henley & Partners, which suggests that despite freedom of movement currently being restricted as a temporary measure, there is a risk that this will negatively affect international mobility in the long run. Political science researchers Uğur Altundal and Ömer Zarpli of Syracuse University and the University of Pittsburgh, respectively, note that public health concerns have historically been used to justify restricting mobility, but governments usually adopt travel restrictions temporarily, in response to short-term health needs. Until now, health security has not been a significant determinant or requirement when negotiating visa waivers, but Altundal and Zarpli warn that “increasing public health concerns due to the outbreak of Covid-19 may change this; the quality and level of health security of a country could be a significant consideration for visa waivers in future."
 
Highlights from the latest rankings:
 
• Japan retains its top spot on the Henley Passport Index, with a visa-free/visa-on-arrival score of 191. Over the past decade, its travel freedom score has increased by 31 points: in 2010, the country was ranked sixth worldwide, with a visa-free/visa-on-arrival score of 160.
 
• Singapore continues to hold onto second place, with a visa-free/visa-on-arrival score of 190. Over the past decade, Singapore’s travel freedom score has increased by 35 points: in 2010, the country was ranked 11th worldwide, with a visa-free/visa-on- arrival score of 155.
 
• Germany remains in third place, with access to 189 destinations compared to the 161 destinations its passport holders were able to access a decade ago. It shares third position with South Korea, which has increased its travel freedom score by 38 points: in 2010, South Korea was ranked 13th worldwide, with a visa-free/visa-on-arrival score of 151.
 
• The UK is currently ranked seventh on the index, with a visa-free/visa-on-arrival score of 185. Over the past decade, the UK’s travel freedom score has increased by 19 points: in 2010, the country was ranked 1st worldwide, with a visa-free/visa-on-arrival score of 166.
 
• The US is also currently ranked seventh on the index, with a score of 185. Over the past decade, the US’s travel freedom score has increased by 26 points: in 2010, the country was ranked seventh worldwide, with a visa-free/visa-on-arrival score of 159.
 
• The UAE has seen the biggest increase in travel freedom over the past 10 years. In 2010, the country was ranked 65th worldwide, with a visa-free/visa-on-arrival score of 64. It is now ranked 18th, with a score of 171, which means the country has added a remarkable 107 visa-free travel destinations over that period. - TradeArabia News Service



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