Massive Convoy Planned to Bring Iraqis Home From Syria
Baghdad or Bust…
An announcement is posted at the Iraqi commercial attach building in Mezzah, western Damascus on Wednesday Nov. 21, 2007. The announcement reads ‘under directives from Iraqi Prime Minister Nouri Maliki, the Transport Ministry calls on Iraqis wishing to return to Iraq to submit to a bus and flight trip scheduled on Nov. 26th.’ The Iraqi government is planning free transport convoys for Iraqi refugees in Syria to encourage them get back to their country after security has relatively improved in some areas of Baghdad, official sources said. (AP Photo/Bassem Tellawi)
The first mass convoy of refugees returning to Iraq is scheduled for next Monday.
The AP reported:
With violence down in Iraq, the country’s embassy in Damascus is starting to organize free trips home for Iraqis who fled the conflict and now want to return, an Iraqi diplomat said Wednesday.
Free convoys and even airplane tickets are part of a new push by the Baghdad government to reach out to Iraqi refugees in Syria, said Adnan al-Shourifi, commercial secretary at the Iraqi embassy.
Al-Shourifi told The Associated Press that the first free trips are scheduled for Monday, when a convoy of buses and an Iraqi Airways flight will take refugees home. He did not say how many people had registered but added that officials expected hundreds to make the trip.
The diplomat said that the government of Prime Minister Nouri al-Maliki had authorized additional trips and that 11 offices had been set up in the Syrian capital for Iraqis who want to sign up.
Thousands of Iraqis who had been living in Syria already headed back home in recent weeks.
That exodus was attributed mostly to Syria imposing tougher visa requirements beginning last month making it more difficult for Iraqis to stay here legally, but improved security in Iraq also played a part.
Syria is host to the most Iraqi refugees in the region — an estimated 1.5 million — and says they have strained its education, health and housing systems, leading it to tighten visa rules and call for international assistance. Syria said it spends $1.6 billion a year on the refugees.
The U.S. military says attacks across Iraq have fallen to their lowest level since February 2006, attributing this partly to the arrival of nearly 30,000 more soldiers earlier this year.