published : 2023-09-06

Belarus Bans Citizens from Renewing Passports Abroad

Mass migration continues as Lukashenko tightens restrictions

An image of peaceful protesters holding signs calling for free elections in Belarus, captured with a Nikon D850.

Belarus' authoritarian president has issued a decree prohibiting citizens from renewing their passports while staying abroad.

This move could force the thousands who fled the country following the disputed election back to Belarus in order to maintain their travel documents.

Since the election in 2020, an estimated 200-300,000 Belarusians have left the country, seeking refuge from political repression.

The election results were widely regarded as manipulated, sparking massive protests that led to a violent crackdown on the political opposition.

A photo of Belarusian citizens standing in front of the closed passport office, symbolizing the restriction on passport renewal abroad, taken with a Canon EOS R.

In his decree, President Alexander Lukashenko specified that a Belarusian passport can only be renewed in the country of the holder's registered residence before leaving.

This restriction adds another layer of control over those who have left, making it harder for them to maintain their legal status abroad.

Opposition leader Sviatlana Tsikhanouskaya, who fled to Lithuania after challenging Lukashenko in the 2020 election, issued a warning to Belarusians.

She advised them not to return to their home country even if their passports expire, as they risk persecution.

A powerful image of Sviatlana Tsikhanouskaya addressing a crowd of supporters during a rally, photographed with a Sony Alpha A7 III.

The situation is further complicated by the fact that Poland and Lithuania have issued 'foreigner passports' to Belarusians, allowing them to stay in those countries.

Meanwhile, the Belarusian human rights group Viasna reports that over 1,500 people are currently imprisoned as political prisoners.

Journalists and activists face ongoing repression since the controversial election, continuing to speak out against Lukashenko's regime.

The turmoil in Belarus shows no sign of abating, with this latest decree adding to the challenges faced by those who have sought refuge abroad.