DAMASCUS, Syria: Syria’s President Bashar al-Assad has signed a new law regulating the entry of Arabs and foreigners into the war-torn country, newspapers said Wednesday.
“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 text, 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, as well as Turkey and Iran, could enter Syria without a visa.
Three years into a revolt which morphed into a bloody civil war, Syria’s regime has lost control of several border crossings. Its relations with several Arab countries have been damaged.
Fighters as well as journalists and humanitarian workers have been using rebel-controlled crossings to make their way into opposition-held areas of 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).