Iraq’s interior ministry has banned all non-Iraqi Arabs from entering the country until further notice as part of security measures for the Dec. 15 general elections, officials said Friday.
U.S. and Iraqi officials have long complained about foreign Arabs sneaking into the country to join the battle against the United States and its allies.
However, most are believed to enter illegally over Iraq’s thinly guarded desert borders rather than use airlines or legal border crossing points.
The decision was taken Tuesday by Interior Minister Bayn Jabr, said two senior ministry officials who spoke to The Associated Press on condition of anonymity because they are not authorized to speak to the media.
On Friday, Jordan’s airline prevented an AP correspondent of Egyptian nationality from boarding a plane to Baghdad. Royal Jordanian officials said they had orders from Iraqi authorities not to allow Arabs on the plane.
“This step is part of the security measures taken for the elections,” said one of the interior ministry officials. “It covers all border points whether airports, land border crossings or ports.”
He said the ban was open-ended.
Another senior official said the ban will continue until Dec. 17, two days after the elections.
Both officials said there would be no exceptions.
Iraq took strict security measures for the landmark Jan. 30 general elections and the Oct. 15 referendum on the new constitution. Those measures included a three-day closure of all border points. But this is the first time Arabs have been banned altogether for so long.
An immigration officer at Baghdad International Airport said authorities began implementing the ban on Wednesday and that a number of Arabs who managed to reach the capital were sent back on the next plane. He did not say how many were involved.
Ethnic Arabs who hold passports from the United States and other non-Arabic countries are not affected, the official said.