Brunei passport world’s 23rd most powerful

Azlan Othman

Brunei Darussalam is the 23rd most powerful passport globally with 166 visa free destinations, according to the 2021 third quarter report of Henleys Passport Index released on October 5.

Japan shares top spot on the index with Singapore due to their visa-free/visa-on-arrival score of 192. Germany, which sits alongside South Korea in joint second place with a visa-free/visa-on arrival score of 190.

At the lower end of the index, Egypt, ranked 97th, currently has no travel restrictions in place, yet its citizens can access just 51 destinations around the world without acquiring a visa in advance.

Similarly, Kenya, which ranks 77th, has no travel bans in place, yet its passport holders are able to access just 72 destinations visa-free.

Based on exclusive data from the International Air Transport Association (IATA), the index, which ranks all of the world’s passports according to the number of destinations their holders can access without a prior visa, shows that countries in the global north with high-ranking passports have enforced some of the most stringent inbound Covid-19-related travel restrictions, while many countries with lower-ranking passports have relaxed their borders without seeing this openness reciprocated.

This has created an ever-widening gap in travel freedom even for fully vaccinated travellers from countries at the lower end of the passport power ranking who remain locked out of most of the world.

The index comprises 199 passports and 227 travel destinations.

In response to recent developments, experts suggest that restrictive policies initially introduced to contain the spread of Covid-19 are now being conveniently applied to contain mobility from the global south.

Commenting in Henley & Partners’ Global Mobility Report 2021 Q4, Prof Mehari Taddele Maru, a Fellow at the United Nations University Institute on Comparative Regional Integration Studies, pointed out that the rationale behind the restrictions on travellers from the global south are not necessarily related to vaccination or infection rates, as they are subject to quarantine requirements whether they are vaccinated or not.

“The global north has been enforcing aggressive migration containment strategies for some time now through the rigid application of border controls, undermining the movement of persons in various ways. Covid-19-associated travel restrictions are new additions to the toolbox of migration containment instruments employed by the global north to curb mobility from the global south.”

In passport index also by Henley & Partners for the second quarter of this year, Brunei Darussalam was ranked in the top 20, where some 166 countries accept Bruneians without a visa.

And in June this year, a new passport index from Sovereign Man rated Brunei Darussalam as having the world’s fifth most powerful passport.

Brunei Darussalam scored 178.8, where travellers from the Sultanate can travel to 140 countries without a visa.

The Sultanate scored an ‘A’ passport grade, which is an excellent travel document that provides access to the world’s most attractive countries. To receive an ‘A’ grade, a passport must have a Travel Freedom score of over 170 and provide mandatory access to the Schengen Area and the United States.