KABUL (Pajhwok): The passport issuance service has been on hold for a month, but the document is still being distributed illegally for $1,600.
Earlier, the Passport Department had announced a halt to the issuance of the document with effect from August 15 until further orders.
Passports distributed by any others sources were declared illegal. The holders would be arrested by border officials, the department warned.
Secret distribution of passports
Findings by Pajhwok Afghan News show that Afghanistan passports are still being distributed by some touts.
Mostly the Afghans who lost their jobs after the collapse of the former administration do not feel safe. They approach agents for new passports to be able to travel abroad.
Mohammad Amin, a resident of Kabul city, received passports for his three-member family 10 days ago.
Living in Vienna, capital of Austria since 18 years, told Pajhwok that after the fall of Kabul, he decided to also take three other members of his family from Kabul to Austria.
“Unfortunately, passport distribution stopped after the Taliban took power, I wonder what to do, but my brother knew a commissioner, this person provided three passports in three days, he took 30,000 Afghanis for all of that,” he said.
One passport for adults cost 5,500 Afghanis and for children under 14, it costs 2,250 Afghanis.
Mohammad Amin said that the passports they received from the commissioner had the date before the Taliban took control of Kabul. He said that all his family members used the passports to travel to Tajikistan and they would soon travel to Austria.
“A few days later, another friend needed a passport. He approached the same agent, who increased the price and told him that one passport costs $1,000,” he said.
Samir Naeemi, another resident of Kabul, said he had lost his passport in the airport stampeded around 20 days ago
He approached a commission agent who provided him a new passport in return for $700.
He also shared a voice clip of the agent with Pajhwok. The agent says, “We do not care if your passport is lost. We just need your photo and money — $700. Per copy”
Agents did not require biometric registration of passport seekers, he said, adding: “It is a secret why we do not ask for biometric registration. But we guarantee delivering passports valid for five years. There will be no problem for holders anywhere.”
Abu Muslim Sherzad, former TOLOnews journalist, wrote on his Facebook account: “Reminder: If you buy a passport in the black market, it will not work for you.”
Jan Ibrahim, commenting on this post said: “I am a witness to the government, particularly officials working in the civilian area of he Passport Department, selling a copy for $300 to $500 in recent days. They deliver passports at doors for applicants…”
About the biometric registration of applicants, he said: “Based on information, several biometric devices have been stolen they are currently with the senior officials. A very strong group in the Passport Department who received large amount of money against each passport… like people bargain for purchasing goods in a shop, passports are also distributed the same way in return for $300 to $500.”
Without giving further details, he acknowledged receiving passports for his family members through an agent within three days.
Agents’ campaign on social media
Danyal Wafa, member of a Facebook group named Dealing in purchase and sale of cars with Kabul number plates“خرید و فروش موترهای پلیت کابل” said: “If anyone needing a passport can get it in a week by paying $800.”
Meanwhile, Shahzada Ashkan, another Facebook user, in a group named Dasht-i-Barchi home car dealers‘موترهای فروشی خانگی دشت برچی’, wrote: “If anyone needs passport or school certificates, contact me on this Whatsapp number: 0786707741.”
Pajhwok contacted a number of the group members, but they refused to share their names. Ashkan promised they would deliver one passport in two days for $500.
He said half of the money, to be paid in advance, would be deposited in the bank and the remaining amount should be paid later.
“We have an office in the Karta-i-Chahar area of Kabul, but it is shut for security reasons. Whenever you need it, you can bring a photo and ID card. Contact me and we can meet in Karta-i-Chahar,” he told Pajhwok.
Bibi Haji Mussalma, who served as Passport Department head before the Taliban’s takeover of Kabul, said: “When the Islamic Emirate of Afghanistan came, it took charge of the department, which has since been shut.”
About the distribution of passports by agents, she said: “We have also heard that passports are still distributed. But we have not issue any passport. Those still being issued are invalid.”
A second statement from the Passport Department a few days later said: “There are rumours about the distribution of passports by some opportunists. We reject these reports them as false.
“Any passport issued after August 15 will remain invalid until the service resumes. Anyone holding these passports would be identified and referred to judicial organs by border police officials.”
Pajhwok also shared the issue of illegal passport distribution with a Taliban spokesman, who did not respond.
In the past also, there were reports about corruption in the passport distribution process.
This report has been produced by Pajhwok and financially supported by UNDP and Denmark.