President Assad sings new visa law for foreigners
Syria’s President Bashar al-Assad has signed a new law regulating the entry of Arabs and foreigners into the war-torn country, Syrian newspapers say.
“Any person entering or leaving Syria must have a valid passport or document… with a visa issued by one of our diplomatic missions or consulates abroad,” reads the new law, approved by parliament.
Those exempt from the visa requirement are countries with bilateral agreements with Syria, such as Lebanon, and citizens of states with “international treaties” with Damascus, such as Iran.
Before the law was passed, travelers from all Arab countries and Turkey could enter Syria without a visa.
Militants and journalists have been using militant-controlled crossings to make their way into Syria.
Under the new law, which will come into force in three months, Arabs and other foreigners seeking residence in Syria “must explain their reasons”.
Offenders would be liable to between one and five years in jail and a fine of five to 10 million Syrian pounds ($33,000 to $66,000).
Syria has been gripped by deadly violence since 2011. Some sources say around 130,000 people have been killed and millions displaced due to the violence fueled by Western-backed militants.
According to reports, the Western powers and their regional allies — especially Qatar, Saudi Arabia and Turkey — are supporting the militants operating inside Syria.
Based on the United Nations’ statistics, more than 100,000 people have been killed and millions displaced due to the turmoil that has gripped Syria for over two years.
The UN also says more than four million other Syrians will be forced out of their homes in 2014 by the escalating conflict in the country.