All visitors to Iraq, including diplomats and aid workers, will soon need to apply for visas to enter the country as part of the scheduled 30 June handover of sovereignty to Iraqis, a Foreign Ministry spokesman said on Sunday.
"This is something that indicates that things are getting back to normal. It was easy to come in (without visas), but we'll get what we need in terms of security now," Branko Dubajic, programme coordinator at Lifeline, Relief in Crisis aid agency, told IRIN in Baghdad. A number of foreign fighters are believed by Coalition forces to be in Iraq, having taken advantage of lax border security.
Since the fall of Saddam Hussein's regime in April 2003, all that has been required to enter Iraq is a valid passport. Officials at the Jordanian-Iraqi border simply stamp visitors in and out of the country without any computerised system.
However, at Baghdad International Airport, border officials have state-of-the-art computer equipment, taking pictures of each passenger who enters. Other border points have varying degrees of security, which prompted the US-led administration to close all but three of the 13 official crossings between Iraq and Iran earlier this year.
"If I stop someone with a bomb from coming in, I protect the 25 million people of Iraq," Jameen Najem Abed, general director of the Al-Karkh nationality and civil affairs department of the Interior Ministry, told IRIN in Baghdad. "We say, 'Let's watch our internal security. Let's keep
Once the system is in place, all foreigners will be required to apply for visas outside Iraq, Samir al-Sumaydii, Iraq's interior minister, told a recent press conference, although Thamir Adhami, the Foreign Ministry spokesman, says that some places, such as the airport, may also sell various visas.
"We are reviewing all of the rules and regulations already in our laws," Adhami said. In the past, Iraq always had a variety of visas - for short-term visitors, business people, those wishing to study and others, he noted.
"We will begin a registration system. We now have thousands of non-Iraqis [living in Iraq], whom it is not easy to count and get enough information about in one or two days," al-Sumaydii added.
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