- The Washington Times - Thursday, March 6, 2003

Deportations delayed
More than 250 Pakistanis are stuck in an immigration limbo, as they sit in U.S. jails waiting to be deported, the Pakistani Embassy said this week.
Mohammad Sadiq, the deputy chief of mission, said friends and relatives of the detained Pakistanis have asked the embassy to help repatriate them to their homes.
The Pakistanis are being held on immigration violations and many have no judicial appeals left. However, commercial airliners are reluctant to fly them home, creating the backlog of stranded immigrants in American detention, Mr. Sadiq said.
"The embassy has raised this issue with the United States [government] at various levels and has been informed that commercial airlines have placed new restrictions on travel of detainees due to which the repatriation of the Pakistani detainees has been delayed," he said in a statement.
Mr. Sadiq said the embassy and the government of Pakistan are working with the U.S. Immigration and Naturalization Service to have the "detainees repatriated to Pakistan expeditiously with honor and dignity."
"It is important that such individuals be reunited with their families who are waiting anxiously for their return," he said.
The Pakistanis are among hundreds of illegal immigrants from Muslim countries arrested after the September 11 terrorist attacks in 2001. About 300 Pakistanis were sent home on three flights last year in June, August and November.
Visas for Saudis
The United States yesterday imposed more visa regulations on Saudis and informed them the approval process would take at least two months, instead of the average five weeks.
"Students, tourists, business travelers and other temporary visitors to the United States generally should apply for non-immigrant visas at least eight weeks [before they plan to depart]," the U.S. Embassy in Saudi Arabia said.
Each Saudi applicant is required to submit a 2-inch-by-2-inch photograph, shot against a white background and without borders, the embassy said. The visa applicants also must fill out a form that asks 41 questions about their personal lives.
The United States first tightened visa restrictions on Saudis after the September 11 terrorist attacks, in which 15 of the 19 participants were Saudi citizens.
Last year, the embassy closed its visa express program after news reports exposed the laxity of the procedures that allowed Saudis to apply for visas through tourist agencies.
Male Saudi citizens older than 16 also must be photographed, fingerprinted and interviewed before they are allowed to enter the United States.
Ambassador resigns
The U.S. ambassador to Switzerland, a former business partner and political ally of President Bush, will resign next month for "personal obligations," the U.S. Embassy said.
Mercer Reynolds III took up his post on the day of the September 11 terrorist attacks in 2001. He has praised Swiss efforts to shut down international networks that finance terrorism.
Mr. Reynolds, a former partner of Mr. Bush's in the Texas Rangers baseball team, raised millions of dollars in campaign contributions in the 2000 presidential election. He has denied Swiss reports that he is resigning to help with the president's re-election campaign.
Meanwhile, the embassy also announced the reopenings of U.S. consular offices in Geneva and Zurich, which were closed last month because of terrorist threats.
Mission to Turkey
The co-chairmen of the House Turkish caucus are due in Ankara today in a last-minute mission to get the Turkish parliament to allow U.S. troops to use Turkey as a northern front in a war on Iraq.
Parliament last week failed to approve a measure authorizing the deployment of U.S. troops, but the Turkish government is trying to persuade the legislature to reconsider its action.
Reps. Robert Wexler, Florida Democrat, and Edward Whitfield, Kentucky Republican, are scheduled to meet Prime Minister Abdullah Gul, Recep Tayyip Erdogan, leader of the ruling Justice and Development Party, and other officials on their two-day visit.
"I am deeply concerned about the weakened state of the U.S.-Turkish strategic partnership, which has been badly damaged over the past several weeks," Mr. Wexler said yesterday.

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