Mos Def arrest: What exactly is a world passport?

2016-01-16 10:55 - Selene Brophy
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Cape Town - Yasiin Bey, the rapper and actor formerly known as Mos Def, has been arrested at Cape Town International Airport for travelling with a World Passport - but while this might sound like a fake passport - turns out it's not - at least not according to the Washington-based World Service Authority.

Bey and his family have since been given 14 days to leave the country after violating immigration laws. The famous US rapper relocated to South Africa in 2013. The Department of Home Affairs spokesperson Mayihlome Tshwete said while the 42-year-old rapper entered the country on a US visa, he has overstayed his visitors' permit, which expired in 2014.

Bey was arrested after trying to leave the country using an "unrecognised world passport”.

READ: Mos Def arrested in Cape Town on immigration charge

But what on earth is a world passport, is it as cool as it sounds, and can you apply for one?

According to the World Service Authority, which issues the document, you can apply for a world passport as it "represents the inalienable human right of freedom of travel on planet Earth. Therefore it is premised on the fundamental oneness or unity of the human community".

In actuality it is a 30-page Machine Readable Travel Document with alphanumeric code line, its own unique number, scanned-in passport photo and "ghost" security paper with embedded logo, the data page is laminated and is in 7 languages: English, French, Spanish, Russian, Arabic, Chinese and Esperanto - replete with a World Citizen logo as background.

"Two pages are reserved for affiliate identifications: diplomatic corps, organizations, firms, etc. There are nineteen visa pages. In the inside back cover, there is space for home address, next of kin, doctor, employer, driving license no and national passport/identity number. 

Interested? Click here  World Passport Application Form

World citizen documents on offer include:

- World Passport 3 years / US$55 (about R921 at R16.75/$)

- World Passport 5 years / US$75

- World Passport 10 years / US$100

- World Birth Card -/ US$25  

- World Birth Certificate / US$25

- World Identity Card / US$25

Normal processing time for issuance of documents is approximately 2 months or longer from the date that the properly completed applications and fee payments have been received and deposited. Apparently passport applications take long the world over. 

It does however state that "the applicant understands that the World Service Authority accepts no responsibility for the position of any government as regards the acceptance of the WSA passport and/or its other identification documents. The applicant is solely responsible for the use of the passport and accompanying documents, which are the bearer's property."  

WATCH: How the world view on global citizenship is changing

The World Service Authority also goes on to say that the passport has become a symbol of control and that "the very acceptance of a national passport is the mark of the slave, serf or subject."

The Authority advocates that the World Passport "is therefore a meaningful symbol and sometimes powerful tool for the implementation of the fundamental human right of freedom of travel. By its very existence it challenges the exclusive assumption of sovereignty of the nation-state system.

"It is designed however to conform to nation-state requirements for travel documents. It does not, however, indicate the nationality of its bearer, only his/her birthplace. It is therefore a neutral, apolitical document of identity and potential travel document."

The site states the World Passport has a track record of over 50 years of acceptance since it was first issued, including South Africa - click here for a full list of 150 countries that have apparently accepted it. 

(World Service Authority)

While the authority states "no one has the right to tell you you can't move freely on your natural birthplace! So don't leave home without one!", but with the Mos Def case in point, you may just want to hold off  trying to travel with one for now. 

Oh the irony...