Friday, October 05, 2007


Iraqis prevented from entering Syria without visas

(DPA) -- For the first time under a new visa regime to stem the flow of Iraqi refugees into the country, 10 Iraqis were prevented Wednesday from entering Syria without visas, an Iraqi party leader living in Syria said Thursday. The Iraqi politician, speaking on the condition of anonymity, said the 10 Iraqis tried to get visas from Syrian embassies abroad but they were told that there were no instructions as to the new visa system applied two weeks ago by the Syrian government only on Iraqis.
The Iraqi official further added that the Syrian-Iraqi borders seemed the past two days almost deserted after previously receiving between 1,500 and 2,000 Iraqis every day. Any Arab is allowed to enter Syria without a visa. However, after the massive flow of Iraqi refugees from the ongoing conflict in that country into Syria, the Syrian government decided to impose visas on any visiting Iraqi.
According to the United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees (UNHCR) Antonio Guterres, about 2 million Iraqis have taken refuge in neighbouring countries, particularly in Jordan and Syria, placing a heavy burden on their hosts. In Syria, which sees the arrival of an estimated 40,000 Iraqis a month, refugees are seen to be contributing to a rise in the cost of housing and goods and the overcrowding of schools.
About 1.5 million Iraqi refugees currently live in Syria. The Syrian government provides the Iraqi refugees with free education and health care, but can no longer cope with the influx of Iraqis.

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