Lebanon is to impose visa restrictions on Syrians for the first time after being overwhelmed by an influx of more than 1.1 million refugees, according to documents published online.
The new regulations, posted on the website of the General Security agency, come into effect on Jan. 5 and lay out various categories, including for tourism and medical treatment. This is the first time that Lebanon has required Syrians to apply for visas.
Citizens of both countries have been able to travel freely across their shared border since Lebanon gained independence in 1943. The new rule is the latest in a series of measures taken by Lebanon to stem the influx of Syrians fleeing their country’s brutal civil war.
In October, Social Affairs Minister Rashid Derbas said Lebanon was effectively no longer receiving Syrian refugees, with limited exceptions for “humanitarian reasons.”
A security source, speaking to AFP on condition of anonymity, declined to describe the new requirements as visas, but acknowledged they were unprecedented.
“This is the first time these kinds of instructions have been given,” he said.
“The goal is to bring the security and economic situation under control and to monitor the presence of Syrians on Lebanese soil.” Derbas confirmed that the rules were a first.
“This is the first time in the history of the two countries that Syrians have been required to define the purpose of their visit,” he told AFP.
“The goal is to prevent (Syrians) from taking refuge” in Lebanon, and “to more seriously regulate the entry of Syrians,” he added.
He said the visas would be available at the border, but that Syrians already in Lebanon and registered with the UN refugee agency UNHCR would not be required to apply.
The many thousands of Syrians in the country who are not registered with the UN, among them wealthy individuals who have not sought aid, will have to apply for visas when their current residencies expire, Derbas said.