Sudan passport fees hike ‘blackmail’

Chaos at the Argeen border crossing in Northern Sudan in late April. "It's chaos, people are sleeping in the open. No shade during the day" (social media)

The increase in Sudanese passport issuance fees, now set at SDG150,000 for adults and SDG75,000 for children, has been widely criticised by a significant portion of the population. Sudan’s Ministry of Interior Affairs announced the resumption of passport issuance and the restoration of civil registry and traffic data in nine states on Wednesday. The following day, a considerable influx of applicants was reported at passport offices in Port Sudan.

Economic analyst Kamal Karar told Radio Dabanga that the large increase in passport issuance fees was an attempt to “blackmail people and exploit their need for passports in order to escape the hell of war, in search of a better life”.

Karar stressed that the increase cannot be justified, arguing the government has “begun to act like parasitic brokers and merchants”.

He adds that the price increase exacerbates suffering and prolongs waiting times in Sudan for months, stating this greatly “restricts people’s right to free movement”.

In response, Chairman of the Sovereignty Council and Commander-in-Chief of the army Lt Gen Abdelfattah El Burhan directed the police to review the Sudanese passport fees, considering the “circumstances of citizens”.

El Burhan said during a visit to the police in the Red Sea on Thursday that “a lot of criticism was directed at the price of the passport, and we in turn believe that the police and the Ministry of Finance should review the price of the passport.”

Economic strife

Many see the cost increases as an attempt by authorities to cover military expenses. Yassir Arman, founder of the SPLM-N-Democratic Revolutionary Movement, which is a member of the Forces for Freedom and Central Change (FFC-Central Council) alliance, said in an X (formerly known as Twitter) post that the state “shamelessly puts its hand into the pockets of those who have nothing, and demands an exorbitant sum”.

Arman said that the 2023 budget proposals before the war included an increase in fees by 250 per cent, as they are dependent on these to fund war expenses. He attributed the significant increases in the prices of goods, services, medicines, and airline tickets to the financial plans of the brokers and war merchants.

A number of residents and merchants in East Darfur have informed Radio Dabanga of a major stagnation in the state’s markets.

Market trader Badr Bakheet attributed the stagnation in the markets to the conditions of war and the critical economic and humanitarian conditions arising from the war, as well as the prolonged failure to pay salaries to workers, all of which have negatively impacted the markets’ commercial activities and purchasing value.

Concerned local resident Ahmed Adam told Radio Dabanga that they are “suffering severely from a major recession in the markets due to the lack of cash liquidity, which has exacerbated the problems resulting from the non-payment of salaries”.

He pointed to the cessation of self-revenue and disbursement of salaries to workers for more than four months, and the cessation of banks in the state, which led to the current critical situation.