KABUL (Reuters) – The Kabul passport office has been forced to suspend operations after equipment used for issuing biometric documents broke down under pressure of processing thousands of applications per day, the office chief said.

Concerns over the future of Afghanistan under the new Taliban government and a growing economic and humanitarian crisis that threatens millions of jobless and hunger have fueled an exodus, with thousands crossing the border every day.

Alam Gul Haqqani, director of the passport department, said 15,000 to 20,000 people per day camped outside the Kabul office, five or six times more than the office was able to handle, many sleeping on the sidewalk during the night.

Many were forced to come back day after day after failing to file their applications and biometric machines regularly broke down while processing documents, causing further delays, he said.

“To prevent people from suffering this and to avoid disruption, we have decided to stop the activities of the passport department for a few days,” he told Tolo News television Monday evening, adding that the office would reopen soon.

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On Tuesday, the Home Office said 60 people, including a number of members of the passport department, were arrested for using false or false documents to obtain passports. There have also been growing complaints of people being forced to pay bribes to officials to get their demands approved.

International flights have slowly resumed operation with regular services from Kabul to Dubai and Islamabad offered by state-owned Ariana Afghan Airlines and privately-owned Kam Air, in addition to charter services from other carriers.

(Written by James Mackenzie, edited by Kim Coghill)

Copyright 2021 Thomson Reuters.

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