Syria to Close Iraq Border, Send Back Refugees

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(Bassem Tellawi/Associated Press)

Friends of mine who were in Syria over the summer tell me that the flow of Iraqi refugees has caused significant strain on the country. For example, by raising demand, the cost of goods has gone up in general, and the country’s electrical system has struggled to cope with power demand. Thus it’s not uncommon for multiple power black outs to occur over the course of an average day, effecting businesses of every sort and disrupting daily life. Levels of crime and prostitution, borne of desperation, have also risen significantly. That said, Iraqi refugees have now become a favorite scapegoat and receive blame for all of Syria’s problems to an absurd degree, as though many of these problems didn’t exist before the refugees arrived. If the new rules ordering Iraqi refugees out of the country are strictly enforced, Syria may have to return to blaming Israel for its problems, tried and true.

(New York Times) — Long the only welcoming country in the region for Iraqi refugees, Syria has closed its borders to all but a small group of Iraqis and imposed new visa rules that will legally require the 1.5 million Iraqis cuqrrently in Syria to return to Iraq.The change quietly went into effect on Oct. 1. Syrian officials have often threatened to stem the flow of refugees over the past eight months, but until now have backed down after pleas from the United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees.

For more than a year, 2,000 to 4,000 Iraqis have fled into Syria every day, according to United Nations officials. On the last four days that the border remained open, the officials said, 25,000 Iraqis crossed into Syria.

“The door is now closed to Iraqis in every direction,” said Sybella Wilkes, a spokeswoman here for the United Nations refugee agency.

It is unclear whether Syria will enforce the rules for the Iraqis already in the country. United Nations officials believe Syria is likely to continue its practice of not deporting citizens of other Arab countries whose immigration status is illegal…

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