(AFP) – Nov 10, 2007
TANAF, Syria (AFP) — The number of Iraqis seeking asylum in Syria each month has dropped from 20,000 to a few hundred since Damascus imposed new visa restrictions last month, a senior border guard said Saturday.
"Between 500 and 600 Iraqis have arrived in Syria since October 1," said Mohammad Yehiya Awad, commander of the Tanaf border post between the two countries.
Before that "more than 20,000 Iraqis entered Syria each month," the officer told more than two dozen ambassadors on an officially organised tour of Tanaf, 300 kilometres (186 miles) east of Damascus.
Syria began imposing new restrictions on Iraqi refugees on October 1, allowing only those with visas issued by the Syrian embassy in Baghdad to enter the country.
And those visas are only issued for commercial, transport, scientific or education reasons.
According to the UN High Commissioner of Refugees (UNHCR), 4.2 million Iraqis have fled the violence since the US-led invasion of March 2003.
Some 1.4 million have found refuge in Syria, while neighbouring Jordan took in 750,000. The UNHCR said about 30,000 Iraqis were entering Syria each month before the new restrictions were imposed.
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