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Weapons of Mass Destruction (WMD)

IRAQ-JORDAN: Authorities consider imposing visas on Iraqis

AMMAN, 15 March 2007 (IRIN) - Iraqis fleeing sectarian violence in their country will soon have to get visas from the Jordanian embassy in Baghdad before arriving at the kingdom’s borders, a senior government official told IRIN.

No date has been set for the implementation of the move and it is not intended to curb the number of Iraqis entering the kingdom, said the official on condition of anonymity.

“We want to make it easier for them so they are not refused entry at the borders,” he said.

The new procedures are expected to affect at least 500 asylum seekers daily, according to officials from the Jordanian Ministry of the Interior.

The United Nations Refugee Agency (UNHCR) estimates that there are up to 750,000 Iraqi refugees in Jordan and up to one million in Syria. There has been much speculation recently on the capability and will of these countries – which also host hundreds of thousands of Palestinian asylum seekers - to allow more fleeing Iraqis in.

Jordanian officials have repeatedly asked the international community to lend a hand to the cash-strapped nation in order to be able to meet the demands of the growing number of Iraqis it hosts.

Government spokesmen Nasser Judeh hinted on Monday that Jordan would impose new rules to control the flow of Iraqis, but did not specifically mention the visa regulations.

“There are several options that we are considering at the moment and there are certain procedures to be taken to organise Iraqis’ entry into the kingdom and facilitate it,” said Judeh in reply to questions from reporters about the possibility of imposing visas on Iraqis wishing to enter Jordan.

Resentment of Iraqi refugees

Economists and members of Jordan’s parliament have said they resent the Iraqi refugees. They allege that the prices of basic commodities as well as housing have tripled over the past three years because of the Iraqis.

Judeh said the government is going ahead with a survey of all Iraqi refugees in Jordan to determine how many there are exactly and how much impact they have on Jordan’s economy.

Jordan has recently taken several measures that make it harder for asylum seekers to get into the kingdom, such as preventing the entry of those between the ages of 20 and 40 and those who carry an older version of Iraqi passport. For reasons related to security and fraud, Iraqis are expected to exchange their old ?S’ series passports for new ?G’ series passports that began being issued last year.

Officials from UNHCR said on Tuesday that they are in close talks with the Jordanian government to ensure that those who need protection get it.

“Let’s not forget that Jordan faces major challenges but has a longstanding tradition of hospitality to refugees. We recognise that governments have a right and responsibility to ensure the security of their own borders. At the same time, in any situation where there are people fleeing violence and persecution, we ask that neighbouring states keep their borders open to those in need of protection,” Robert Breen, UNHCR Representative in Jordan, said.

Breen added that the recent visit by Antonio Guterres, UN High Commissioner for Refugees, “was aimed precisely at working with Jordan to see how we, with support from the international community, can help them achieve a balance between their legitimate national concerns and ensuring Iraqis get the protection they need”.

Officials at the Iraqi embassy in Amman said they had not been informed about new visa measures and insisted that it is “an eternal Jordanian issue”.

“We have no say on what Jordanians can and cannot do. This is their country and they can impose any rule inside it,” said an Iraqi diplomat who spoke on condition of anonymity.

Over the past few decades, Iraqis and Jordanians have been able to travel between the two countries without visas. But two years ago, Iraqi authorities began imposing visa regulations on Jordanians in a bid to stop fighters joining the insurgency in the war-torn country.



Copyright © IRIN 2007
This material comes to you via IRIN, the humanitarian news and analysis service of the UN Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs. The opinions expressed do not necessarily reflect those of the United Nations or its Member States.
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