Dateline: Tbilisi, Georgia
If you’ve been following this blog since the beginning, you probably already know that, according to the government, you are not the true owner of your citizenship. The government is.
And you are probably aware of the fact that the government can take your passport, thereby denying your freedom of movement, for failing to pay child support or getting behind on your taxes.
I know of one case of a friend of a friend who refuses to travel because he’s afraid that the US government has canceled his passport. That may sound a little strange, but just the fear of the government revoking his passport is keeping him locked up inside the borders of his own country.
And it’s not just US persons who should be concerned about losing their passport. Other countries have made passport cancellation a habit in an attempt to wield the big stick of government power and dictate the actions of THEIR citizens.
The most obvious country is, of course, the Land of the Free’s neighbor to the north: Canada.
Besides criminals, you can have your Canadian passport revoked for failing to pay child support or alimony or for owing money to the Crown for consular assistance or repatriation.
Terrorism’s threat to freedom of movement
Canada is also part of a growing list of countries that have created laws that will allow them to revoke the passports of those who go abroad to fight with extremist groups like the Islamic State.
In 2014, Dutch authorities had already revoked 49 passports of individuals suspected of either fighting or planning to fight with IS or other terrorist groups in Syria, Iraq and elsewhere.
During the same time, the British had taken 60 returning fighters into custody and had 500 British citizens who had gone to Syria and Iraq under surveillance. In one year’s time, 14 British passports were revoked.
On the more extreme side, Australia has put in place laws that would suspend passports for 48 hours for anyone suspected of making plans to travel to Syria, Iraq or other “hot spots”, with the possibility of permanent passport cancellation.
In fact, since 2010, the Australian government has canceled 100 passports; and a new law would make the government’s power to revoke passports retrospective for 10 years, meaning anyone guilty of traveling to a suspected terrorist state in the past ten years could have their passport suspended or permanently canceled.
Most people will see these developments and not think twice about how such changes will affect their freedoms. The government is going after the bad guys, after all.
But even the Australian Prime Minister has admitted that these changes could mean that people born in Australia could lose some privileges and that the country as a whole will have to reassess the line between individual freedoms and the safety of the community.
Just another case of freedom being sacrificed in the name of safety.
France, on the other hand, chose not to adopt such laws — despite the November 13th attack — because the laws would trample on human rights. France’s restraint is a marked contrast from the governmental power grabs going on in other western countries.
Arbitrary passport cancellation worldwide
But terrorists are not the only people who have to worry about passport cancellations these days. In Malaysia, a new law states that Malaysians who discredit or ridicule the government can be denied the privilege of traveling outside the country for three years.
And those who speak against the government while outside the country are no exception.
The original law states that individuals can also lose their passport privileges for damaging their passport or visiting Israel without approval. Such offenses can illicit a travel ban lasting anywhere from two to ten years.
Even worse, the names of all offenders are added to a government blacklist.
Malaysia’s immigration director made it clear who has the ultimate power when he stated that “the ownership of a Malaysian international passport was a privilege and not a right.”
Turkey seems to think along the same lines these days. Those who speak out against Turkish President Erdogan can expect to have their passport revoked as well. For instance, Turkey recently canceled the passport of Fethullah Gulen, a staunch critic of Erdogan who currently resides in the US.
And then there’s the case of India, where (just last month) the government canceled the passport of billionaire Vijay Mallya, who owes over $1 billion in debt to several banks. The government suspects that Mallya is residing in the U.K. and has canceled the passport in an effort to have the businessman deported.
But you don’t have to have astronomical debt to have your passport revoked in India. The government has a long list of reasons you could have your passport taken away, including having a second citizenship.
Further to the east, China has made life difficult for Taiwanese passport holders. A law went into effect in January that prohibits Taiwanese citizens from placing a “Republic of Taiwan” sticker over the Republic of China emblem on their passport cover, and allows the government to revoke their passport if they do.
So far, 15 individuals have been denied entry to Macau and the 300,000 stickers the pro-Taiwan independence campaign has produced are now invalidated.
As one government official explained, it is forbidden to make any changes to a passport because it is a government-issued travel document that represents the country throughout the world.
Just another reminder that your little travel document really isn’t yours, and your right to freedom of movement really isn’t a right at all, but a privilege.
Passport cancellation and your freedom of movement
Put aside the fact that passports are a recent development of Big Government, as well as the fact that the UN has declared the freedom of movement an international right, and recognize that governments control your ability to enter and leave any country on the planet.
According to them, passports are a privilege, not a right. And they’re the ones in control at the end of the day. It’s their prerogative.
It’s like a parent who tells their child that they don’t have a right to the car; it is their privilege if they behave. When it comes to passports, the government is the parent and they will tell THEIR citizens what “behaving” is.
In an age when government power is on the rise, it’s important to note that governments are stepping up the ways they can cancel your passport and revoke your freedom of movement.