| 3 December 2021, Friday |

Kabul passport office suspends work as demand crashes system

The Kabul passport office has been forced to halt operations after equipment used to issue biometric documents failed under the strain of processing thousands of applications per day, according to the office’s head.

Concerns about Afghanistan’s future under the new Taliban government, as well as a looming economic and humanitarian crisis that threatens millions with unemployment and hunger, have fueled an exodus, with thousands crossing the border every day.

According to Alam Gul Haqqani, director of the passport department, up to 15,000-20,000 people a day were camped outside the Kabul office, five or six times more than the office could handle, with many sleeping on the pavement overnight.

Many were forced to return day after day after failing to file their application, he said, and the biometric machines frequently broke down while processing the documents, causing further delays.

“To prevent people from suffering and to avoid disruption, we have decided to suspend passport department activities for a few days,” he told Tolo News television on Monday night, adding that the office would reopen soon.

The interior ministry announced on Tuesday that 60 people, including several passport department employees, had been arrested for obtaining a passport using forged or fake documents. There have also been increasing reports of people being forced to pay bribes to officials in order for their applications to be approved.

International flights have gradually resumed, with state-owned Ariana Afghan Airlines and privately owned Kam Air offering regular services from Kabul to Dubai and Islamabad, as well as charter services from other carriers.