NPR logo

Iraqis Flood Refugee Center as Syria Changes Policy

  • Download
  • <iframe src="https://www.npr.org/player/embed/14218084/14218062" width="100%" height="290" frameborder="0" scrolling="no" title="NPR embedded audio player">
  • Transcript
Iraqis Flood Refugee Center as Syria Changes Policy

Iraq

Iraqis Flood Refugee Center as Syria Changes Policy

Iraqis Flood Refugee Center as Syria Changes Policy

  • Download
  • <iframe src="https://www.npr.org/player/embed/14218084/14218062" width="100%" height="290" frameborder="0" scrolling="no" title="NPR embedded audio player">
  • Transcript

Syria has been the only country in the region to accept Iraqi refugees without visas. A new policy to require visas goes into effect next week, and Iraqis are anxious to meet the deadline. Hayder Daffar for NPR hide caption

toggle caption
Hayder Daffar for NPR

Syria has been the only country in the region to accept Iraqi refugees without visas. A new policy to require visas goes into effect next week, and Iraqis are anxious to meet the deadline.

Hayder Daffar for NPR

More than 600 people a day are processed at this U.N. refugee center east of Damascus in Syria. Hayder Daffar for NPR hide caption

toggle caption
Hayder Daffar for NPR

More than 600 people a day are processed at this U.N. refugee center east of Damascus in Syria.

Hayder Daffar for NPR

Syria has long offered an open door to its neighbors in Iraq who want to flee the war. It's the only country to allow Iraqis in without a visa, and more than 1.5 million refugees have taken advantage of that. But the numbers have placed huge burdens on Syria's economy and social structure, so Syria is about to change the policy.

Iraqis will now have to apply for visas at the Syrian embassy in Baghdad. But the embassy is in a violent neighborhood, making it almost impossible to get the necessary permissions, so the new measures effectively shut the last open door.

At the U.N.'s refugee processing center in Damascus — the largest such U.N. operation in the world — many Iraqis arrive straight from the border to register, hoping for protection in the face of uncertain status in Syria. The new policy is a source of anxiety for them, as they face persistent high levels of violence in Iraq.