Jordan, Syria, restricting Iraq refugees

June 18, 2007 at 1:45 PM
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WASHINGTON, June 18 (UPI) -- With millions fleeing Iraq's violence, the only two countries that have opened their borders to the refugees are imposing new restrictions.

According to the United Nations, Jordan requires that Iraqi refugees be over 40 or under 20 years old before they are allowed entry. They must also prove they have sufficient funds to support themselves and that they hold a new passport.

Syria has more open entrance policies -- it receives at least 30,000 Iraqis a month -- but limits their stay to three months. At the end of that period, the refugees have to leave and apply for re-entry, said the U.N. Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs-Integrated Regional Information Networks.

The restrictions have stranded "tens of thousands" of refugees on Iraq's borders and are separating families, according to the United Nations.

Nearly 10 percent of Iraq's 25 million people are now in refugee status.

According to the U.N. High Commission on Refugees, there are 1.4 million Iraqis now living in Syria, up to 750,000 in Jordan, 80,000 in Egypt and about 200,000 elsewhere in the region.

Saudi Arabia, Kuwait and Iran do not open their borders to Iraqi refugees.

The United States has strict limits on the number of Iraqis it will accept, although last week the White House approved a law allowing 500 Iraqis per year for the next two years to immigrate. The increase is limited to those Iraqis who have worked as translators for U.S. forces or at the embassy. The prior limit was 50 per year.

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