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Last Updated: Wednesday, 13 December 2006, 14:59 GMT
Zimbabwe 'can't afford' passports
Zimbabwean passport
Zimbabwean passport holders find it difficult to get visas
Zimbabwe's authorities have temporarily suspended the issuing of new passports as it is too expensive to produce them.

Would-be travellers have been told to wait until next March for passports, and only temporary six-month travel documents are being issued.

The passport office says it has not been allocated enough foreign currency to import special passport paper.

Correspondents say the demand for passports is high as people seek to escape the deepening economic crisis.

Zimbabwe has the world's highest rates of annual inflation - at more than 1,000% and unemployment stands at more than 70%.

Many hundreds of thousands have left Zimbabwe in recent years, though even those with Zimbabwean passports often find visas hard to come by.

Local journalist Brian Hungwe told the BBC that students that have secured places at foreign universities and local businessmen with committments outside the country could find themselves stranded.

According to a parliamentary committee report the registrar general's office has a backlog of 300,000 passports, AFP news agency reports.

Thousands of Zimbabweans risk the perilous border crossing over the crocodile-infested Limpopo river in a bid to reach South Africa illegally.

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