(formerly IRIN News) Journalism from the heart of crises

Travel restrictions eased for visiting West Bank Palestinians

West Bank Palestinians wanting to visit relatives in neighbouring Jordan will no longer have to endure lengthy procedures at the border post following the recent removal of tight travel restrictions.

Entry into Jordan in future will be based on "personal undertaking", and Palestinian visitors will be allowed a month-long stay in the country with the possibility of a two week extension, according to a senior Jordanian security official.

The new "travel pass" which came in effect 1 June has no age restrictions and is applicable to all Palestinians visiting the kingdom.

In the past, tight travel restrictions were imposed on West Bank Palestinians crossing into Jordan over the King Hussein Bridge which spans the River Jordan and links the country with the West Bank and Israel.

Palestinians intending to visit the country had to provide personal guarantees supplied by a Jordanian citizen before they would be allowed entry.

Furthermore, a special committee of security officers set up offices at the very first Jordanian entry point on the bridge. Travellers would reportedly have to wait for hours as these police officers, with little resources, were entrusted with deciding who enters and who is rejected.

"The decision makes life easier for Jordanians as well. Travelling across the border is less of a hassle and definitely less time consuming," Amin Mahmood, a frequent cross-border traveller, told IRIN.

The head of Administration of Bridges Security, Muhammad Rashid, however warned that any contravention of the travel agreement would result in a 2,000 Jordanian dinars (around US $2,800) fine.

So far 8,886 Palestinians have taken advantage of the new travel pass, Rashid noted. According to official statistics, traffic on the King Hussein bridge is estimated to exceed 5,000 visitors per day.

Jordan has received the greatest number of Palestinians during the two Arab Israeli wars of 1948 and 1967.

According to United Nations Relief and Works Agency for Palestine Refugees, as of March 2005, the total number of Palestinian refugees residing in Jordan, is around 1.8 million.

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