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Cablegate: Jordan Exempts Departing Iraqis From Fees; Introduces New

VZCZCXRO3808
PP RUEHBC RUEHDA RUEHDE RUEHIHL RUEHKUK
DE RUEHAM #0563 0521456
ZNR UUUUU ZZH
P 211456Z FEB 08
FM AMEMBASSY AMMAN
TO RUEHC/SECSTATE WASHDC PRIORITY 1855
INFO RUEHGB/AMEMBASSY BAGHDAD PRIORITY 5812
RUCNRAQ/IRAQ COLLECTIVE
RUCNDT/USMISSION USUN NEW YORK 0021
RUEHGV/USMISSION GENEVA 0647
RUEHRBA/REO BASRAH 0003
RUEHIHL/REO HILLAH 0001
RUEHKUK/REO KIRKUK 0006

UNCLAS AMMAN 000563

SIPDIS

SENSITIVE
SIPDIS

DEPARTMENT FOR NEA/ELA, NEA/I, S/I, PRM, AMBASSADOR FOLEY

E.O. 12958: N/A
TAGS: PREF PREL PGOV JO IZ
SUBJECT: Jordan Exempts Departing Iraqis From Fees; Introduces New
Visa Procedures

REFS: A) Amman 532
B) Amman 486

Sensitive but unclassified; please protect accordingly. Not for
internet distribution or use outside the USG.

1. (SBU) The Jordanian Ministry of Interior (MOI) announced
February 13 it would fully exempt departing Iraqis from overstay
fines, and would waive 50 percent of the fines for Iraqis who choose
to stay in Jordan providing they correct/update their status by
March 17, 2008, a date extended until April 17 in a subsequent
announcement (ref B). In the initial announcement, MOI also
confirmed that all Iraqis will need visas to enter Jordan, and that
visa procedures "would be announced soon." The MOI said Iraqis
located in Iraq would have to use courier service provider "TNT
Express" for their applications, while those outside of Iraq would
have to apply at Jordanian embassies.

Despite Announcement, Questions Remain
--------------------------------------

2. (SBU) In previous meetings with EmbOffs, Iraqi Ambassador to
Jordan Saad Al-Hayani lamented that many Iraqis in Jordan could not
afford to pay any overstay fees, and still feared being permanently
banned from reentry to Jordan if they departed. Nevertheless, Iraqi
DCM Muhammad Shabout told us on February 17 that the consular
section received a high volume of inquires about the MOI
announcement from Iraqis interested in returning home. Shabout said
he believed "a good number" of Iraqis would be willing to return
now. Shabout also said the Iraqi Embassy had queried Baghdad about
GOI plans to provide financial assistance to Iraqis returning home.
Shabout further confirmed that the GOI had previously provided USD
800 per returning family.

3. (SBU) Iraqi Embassy officials told EconOffs that the Jordanian
decision was still not clear to them, "as the main issue was [the
GOJ's prior] placement of Iraqis on a permanent reentry ban, and not
the fees." The Iraqi Embassy has requested further clarification
from the MOI. MOI officials initially told EmbOffs that no
permanent ban would be placed on those Iraqis departing Jordan who
have been exempted from the overstay fees (ref B). During his
February 18 briefing for the Amman diplomatic corps, UNHCR High
Commissioner Antonio Guterres said that the GOJ told him their
officers would cease placing the red-starred stamp, which precludes
reentry, on passports of departing Iraqis unable to pay their
overstay fines (ref A). Guterres described this move as an
important symbolic gesture.

4. (SBU) COMMENT: Despite assurances that Iraqis departing Jordan
should not fear being permanently banned from reentering, unclear
criteria for visa issuance and a track record of at-times arbitrary
enforcement at the borders might deter many Iraqis from departing
because there remain no guarantees they will be able to return to
Jordan later. In any event, UNHCR and others who work closely with
Iraqis believe that Iraqi refugees are better-informed about
developments in Iraq than many government and international
officials, and will make the decision to go home when conditions
allow. END COMMENT.

Visit Amman's Classified Website at:
http://www.state.gov.sgov.gov/p/nea/amman/

HALE

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