Syrians ordered to leave Kurdistan Region

Erbil suspends visa issuance for Syrian nationals

ERBIL – Officials in Kurdistan’s Interior Ministry, on Saturday, confirmed the issuance of a circular following the recent decision to halt visa issuance for all Syrian nationals, encompassing both singles and families. Director of the ministry’s office, Hemn Merany, disclosed that a decision to lift the suspension for certain categories has not yet been made and is currently under review.

According to the circular, Syrians currently in the Kurdistan Region cannot convert their visas to residences and must leave the country before their visa expires.

As previously reported by 964media, a prior announcement specifically targeted unmarried Syrians before being expanded to include all Syrian nationals, excluding visitors holding permanent residency in the United States, Canada, and select European countries.

Hemn Merany stated to 964media, “At this time, the decision to not issue entry visas for Syrians will encompass everyone – whether families or singles – and will continue to be enforced until a decision is made to limit it to a specific category.”

A translation of the Kurdistan Interior Ministry’s circular reads: “By the order of the Minister of Interior and in the public interest, it has been decided as follows: Suspension of visa issuance for holders of Syrian passports and travel documents, effective from March 29, 2024, with the exception of holders of residency in the United States of America, Canada, and Europe, who may obtain a tourist visa for 30 days.”

It further specifies that tourists who obtained a visa before the aforementioned date and are currently in the Kurdistan region cannot change their visa to a residency and must leave the region before their visa expires.

Following the outbreak of the civil war in Syria, the Kurdistan Region emerged as a sanctuary for many Syrians seeking refuge and stability. Amidst the turmoil, the region not only offered safety but also economic opportunities, leading to a significant influx of Syrian refugees, many of them from the Kurdish areas of Syria, colloquially by Kurds as Rojava, or West Kurdistan.

More than 200,000 Syrian Kurdish refugees are currently taking refuge in the Kurdistan Region.

Hozan Afrini, president of the Kurdish Refugee Council Rojava – Syria in the Kurdistan Region, says more than 1000 Syrian Kurds who are living in the Kurdistan Region on visas are at risk, especially those who fled places like Afrin, which was forcefully taken over by Turkish forces in 2018 after Kurdish authorities withdrew.

This migration proved to be a boon for local businesses that, at one point, faced challenges in hiring local staff due to the rapid economic expansion and a mismatch in labor expectations on working conditions or salary demands. Many Syrians work in unskilled or semi-skilled positions that have historically been harder to fill in a region dominated by public sector employment.

The Kurdistan Region’s long-running financial crisis has upended this balance somewhat in recent years.