ERBIL (Kurdistan 24) – According to the 2018 Henley Passport Index released on Tuesday, Iraq and Afghanistan are tied for the least desirable passport in terms of how many countries to which they allow their holders to travel.
While the two embattled nations stand at the bottom of the list, Japan has climbed to the top. Japanese citizens can travel without a visa to, or gain a visa on arrival in, 190 destinations – the most of any country. Japan overtook Singapore on the list, whose citizens can travel to 189 destinations without a prior visa, after Japanese travelers gained visa-free access to Myanmar earlier in 2018.
The statistics of the Henley Passport Index are based on data released by the Canadian-based International Air Transport Association (IATA).
The countries at or tied for the top five places are: Japan, Singapore, France, Germany, South Korea, Denmark, Finland, Italy, Spain, Sweden, Austria, Luxembourg, Netherlands, Norway, Portugal, United Kingdom, and the United States.
The highest improvements from the standpoint of would-be globetrotters are: Georgia, Ukraine, United Arab Emirates, and China. These countries have climbed from 14 to 18 ranks higher, respectively, compared to the 2017 passport index.
The organization also ranks the passport index of countries with citizenship-by-investment programs, which are: Austria, Malta, Cyprus, St. Kitts and Nevis, Antiqua and Barbuda, St. Lucia, Grenda, Montenegro, and Moldova.
Iraq and Afghanistan remain at the low end of the spectrum, providing visa-free access to 30 countries each, with Syria and Somalia only just ahead with 32 visa-free destinations.
A country's domestic security situation is just one of the factors that affect the global rank of each citizens' potential travel destinations.
Over the past few years, Iraq has been labeled as one of the most dangerous countries in the world to visit, largely due to the rise of the Islamic State (IS), which occupied large swaths of territory in 2014.
Iraq declared victory over IS in December of last year, but the group continues to launch insurgency-style attacks, kidnappings, and ambushes in provinces like Anbar and Nineveh and in the disputed provinces of Kirkuk, Diyala, and Salahuddin.
Editing by John J. Catherine