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The New Arab

Turkey does a U-turn, imposes entry visas on Syrians

The new move could be part of deal with Europe to curtail refugee influx [AFP]

Date of publication: 29 December, 2015

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Turkey has imposed visa restrictions on Syrians travelling by air or sea, unofficial reports from Ankara suggest, reversing previous claims Ankara would not change "open-door" policy to Syrians.
Turkey has imposed new entry visa requirements on Syrian nationals wishing to travel to Turkey, effective on January 8, 2016, according to a leaked statement from the Turkish Foreign Ministry obtained by The New Arab's Arabic service.

The visas may be secured from Turkish embassies and consulates overseas, the statement said.

However, the Foreign Ministry's statement pointed out Syrian nationals travelling via land crossings from Syria would continue to be exempt from visa requirements.

But all border crossings between Turkey and Syria have been closed to Syrian civilians in the direction of Turkey, except for exceptional cases for several months, the rest forced to wait for weeks before denied or granted permission to cross.

The New Arab's correspondent in Turkey said a memorandum with new instructions reflecting the decision has been issued to airlines operating flights from and into Turkey.

The move could be part of the measures Turkey pledged to implement under an agreement with the EU to reduce the flow of Syrian refugees to Europe via Turkey.

Earlier reports had suggested the Turkish prime mininster told an EU-Turkish summit in Brussels in mid-December his government would impose visas on Syrians.

Turkey concluded a deal with the EU to help reduce the number of refugees flocking to European shores in return for a $3 billion aid package.

Nearly two weeks ago, Turkish officials had strictly ruled out the reports suggesting that the country would start imposing visa requirements on Syrians trying to enter the country, underlining that Turkey “open-door policy” for Syrians is still valid.

Yet, Turkey needed to apply stricter security checks for Syrians entering Turkey, especially at airports, a senior Turkish official told Turkish press at the time.

“There is a significant increase in Syrians who try to reach Turkey by travelling from third countries, especially from Egypt and Lebanon. Among those Syrians, there are also fake passport holders,” the official said, noting that additionally, there are Syrians who travel to Turkey not for basic humanitarian concerns, but for economic reasons.

“Measures are in place for dealing with this issue,” he added, indicating that those measures were related to address possible security threats stemming from third countries.

Refugees in numbers up until October 2015

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