Turkmenistan: new rules and procedures of travel abroad
Boarding planes of the national air carrier Turkmenhovajollary, the Turkmens now are supposed to show border guards and customs officers documents issued by local structures of the Interior Ministry. These latter issue permits to applicants only after a thorough examination of their personal files. Permits are to be denied to whoever has had problems with the law, people registered as drug-addicts, and the so called unreliable (meaning the people the Interior Ministry and National Security Ministry regard as insufficiently loyal to the regime). Sources say that the new rules were enforced last week, and that some would-be passengers of the Ashkhabad-Istanbul flight never even boarded the plane.
The new rules and procedures are applied at all crossing points on the borders of Turkmenistan. This is how things are now done: a person compiles all necessary documents and applies for the visa of the country he or she intends to visit. After that, however, the person applies to the local Internal Affairs Department that is supposed to give its answer within ten days.
Insiders say that President Saparmurat Niyazov expects the new procedures to bring down the number of non-returnees or the people who leave Turkmenistan for a foreign country (as tourists, for medical treatment, on business trips, and so on) and never come back. Sources in the government claim that more than 50% of Turkmen travellers to East Europe stay there and never return. The same goes for whoever leaves for Turkey and other countries. The police will study applicants' files now to expose the potential non-returnees before they ever leave the country.
The new rules are also applied to whoever travels to Russia, Tajikistan, Kazakhstan, Uzbekistan, Kyrgyzstan, and other countries of the Commonwealth. According to what information is available at this point, Iran is the only exception.