Results for Henley & Partners’ 2023 Passport Index were recently released. For those unfamiliar, this list ranks passports of countries by the number of destinations you’re able to enter visa-free or with minimal difficulty.
If you travel with, say, Australian and Italian passports, those are two countries that are currently ranked in the top six in the world, based on this index.
How have those two countries achieved such a feat, year after year?
Is it their head start with decades of international ties and diplomacy? Is it because no one perceives their citizens as a flight risk, knowing they’re likely to return to their homelands? Perhaps it’s the inability to control their domestic supply of natural resources (unlike what has occurred in nations throughout the Middle East, Africa, Latin America and the Indian subcontinent).
And regardless of the question of “how” they reached where they are, this ranking has an unmistakable stench of passport privilege.
It ignores the billions of people at the other end of the list.
People from countries that have faced several hurdles in the form of economic and political challenges. Countries who don’t have a history rich in diplomatic ties, with citizens sometimes trying to escape their homeland for survival. People like those with family and friends in Iran — a country ranked toward the bottom of the list, at number 92. Unsurprising, given it has been largely cut off from the outside world for many years.
It’s easy to recognize and appreciate that certain passports let certain people see the world and move to different countries with very little planning.
For holders of Australian or Italian passports, the world has perceived them positively as a member of the international community, based on the color of those passports.
Seeing this annual Index reminds one of those with “weaker” passports and their stories. Stories that involve innocent humans being rejected from refugee status in neighboring countries when fleeing persecution, treated inhumanely or living a life of forced solitude.
And while you can be culturally connected to your country, it doesn’t always mean you’re aligned with your government (something often forgotten). Not everyone has the freedom to express that.
Yet, the color of your passport is all that is seen.
This “list” doesn’t even touch upon or recognize the millions of stateless citizens in the world, unable to travel (or work) without a passport.
Proposing a solution to this challenge is hard. Rankings will continue, as will restrictions on the free movement of others.
While individuals are unable to control multilateral relations between nations on a global scale, let’s take a moment to remember the faces behind this list. Not just statistics.
People that are so heavily judged by where they’re from.
When we come together to discuss our hopes and dreams for our world, it’s clear that we bleed the same color, regardless of the hues of our official documents.