Lonely Planet Writer

World passports in spotlight as Mos Def tries to leave SA on one

Yasiin Bey – better known to most as American rapper and actor Mos Def – was arrested in South Africa last week after reportedly trying to leave the country on a “world passport”.

Yasiin Bey - or Mos Def - was arrested in South Africa for attempting to travel with a world passport.
Yasiin Bey – or Mos Def – was arrested in South Africa for attempting to travel with a world passport. Image by Eddy BERTHIER / CC BY 2.0

The rapper has been charged with violating South Africa’s immigration laws and is set to appear in court on 8 March, reports Reuters.

While leaving Cape Town, he presented a world passport in order to travel, according to local officials. A world passport is issued by a non-profit called the World Service Authority, which, according to its website, was founded in the 1950s by a man named Garry Davis. The Washington-based group issues passports under the belief that it is “the inalienable right of all humans to travel freely on their own planet”.

The world passport resembles traditional passports from most countries and is machine readable, reports the Economic Times, noting that it is unclear what countries have recognized the documents. South Africa does not recognize the passport, which led to Bey’s detainment. He faces other charges related to his spouse and child staying in the country.

According to AFP, Edward Snowden and Julian Assange are also reportedly world passport holders.