Holders of a Cypriot passport can travel to 176 destinations without a visa, according to the latest Henley Passport Index where the document ranked 15th out of 198 passports, dropping two spots since the second quarter of 2021.
According to the index, looking into the fourth quarter of 2021, Japan shares the top spot with Singapore due to their visa-free and visa-on-arrival score of 192.
Meanwhile, Afghan nationals sit at the bottom of the index with access to just 26 countries without requiring a visa in advance.
The Henley Passport Index compares 198 passports and includes 226 destinations, using “exclusive data from the International Air Transport Association (IATA) – the largest, most accurate travel information database – and enhanced by Henley & Partners’ research team,” their website reads.
The index included research showing how 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,” Henley and Partners said.
The past 18 months of the pandemic have resulted in the “widest global mobility gap” in Henley Passport Index’s 16-year history.
Henley used as example Japan which currently bars almost all foreign nationals from entry and Germany, which sits alongside South Korea in a joint second place with a visa-free and visa-on arrival score of 190, and currently restricts nationals from nearly 100 countries from entry.
Experts have suggested that pandemic restrictions are not always necessarily related to vaccination or infection rates but are used as a pretext to curb migration.
According to a Fellow at the United Nations University Institute on Comparative Regional Integration Studies, Professor Mehari Taddele Maru, “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.”
Recent adjustments to the Covid-ban policies of the UK and the US, which share seventh place on the index with a visa-free score of 185, “have done little to alter what experts perceive to be growing inequalities when it comes to travel freedom and access,” Henley and Partners said.
Commenting on these latest developments, Dr Christian H. Kaelin, Chairman of Henley & Partners and the inventor of the passport index concept, highlighted that these decisions are likely to have far-reaching consequences.
“If we want to restart the global economy, it is critical that developed nations encourage inward migration flows, as opposed to persisting with outmoded restrictions… It is pivotal that advanced nations consider revising their current somewhat exclusive approach to the rest of the world and reform and adapt to overcome the competition and not miss the opportunity to embrace the potential,” Kaelin said.