Since President Rouhani ascended to power and the ‘Iran Deal’ came into being, an increasing number of Iranians wish to travel outside of the country for leisure and study. Unfortunately, whilst Iran’s relationship with the outside world has improved significantly, the number of visa restrictions on citizens has massively increased, particularly for travel into Europe.
Due to the large number of visa applications received by embassies on a daily basis, even getting an interview is becoming painfully difficult, with many people queuing up outside the door in the early hours only to be repeatedly turned away.
What really rubs salt into the wound is the emergence, and actions of travel companies who act as intermediaries between the embassies and the people. Dubbed by some as the ‘travel mafia’, these companies demand money from would be travellers as part of a tour package including flights, hotels and visa expenses. Due to the fact that various consulates provide travel agencies with about 40 visa appointment slots per day, people are pushed to pay extortionate amounts of money to better their chances of an appointment.
What’s worse yet is that according to website theiranproject sometimes these agencies sell the slot itself (separate from the tour package) for over 300 Euros, which is outright illegal and benefits solely the travel company in question.
To raise the issue with the government Iranians have taken to twitter and petition website change.org to express their anger and demand change. One petition addressed to foreign minister Mohammad Zarif outlines the problem as such:
Despite the campaign, according to an an article published by Iranian Students News Agency it is reported that the travel intermediaries involved responded by claiming that 'we are not mafia' but ‘only doing our job’.
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