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Uzbek Officials Cast Doubt On Proposal To Abolish Exit Visas

  • RFE/RL's Uzbek Service

The proposal to abolish exit visas for Uzbeks is one of a number of initiatives that appear aimed at opening up the country under President Shavkat Mirziyaev (file photo).

The proposal to abolish exit visas for Uzbeks is one of a number of initiatives that appear aimed at opening up the country under President Shavkat Mirziyaev (file photo).

Officials in Uzbekistan are playing down expectations that the tightly controlled Central Asian nation will soon abolish exit visas.

A draft presidential decree posted on a government website earlier in January included a clause that would scrap a long-standing requirement for Uzbeks seeking to travel abroad to receive an exit visa.

The wide-ranging draft decree On a Strategy for Uzbekistan's Further Development, which included hundreds of initiatives, would establish a new system of identification and travel documents.

The draft indicated that a decision on the matter would come in the third quarter of 2017, but included no timeframe for implementation.

Speaking to RFE/RL on January 26, several Interior Ministry officials emphasized that the draft is only a proposal and they are not sure the plan to scrap exit visas will be approved.

The exit visa system inherited from the Soviet era has been a major barrier for Uzbeks seeking to leave the country. It has become an illegal source of income for officials who expedite the process in exchange for bribes.

The proposal is one of a number of initiatives that appear aimed at opening up the country under President Shavkat Mirziyaev, who was elected after the death of longtime autocrat Islam Karimov last summer.

But Mirziyaev has already backtracked on at least one other such step, postponing a plan to introduce visa-free travel in Uzbekistan for citizens of 27 foreign countries by nearly four years just days after it was initially announced.

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