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House endorses amended Passports Law

By Khaled Neimat - Jan 05,2014 - Last updated at Jan 05,2014

AMMAN — The Lower House on Sunday endorsed a new provision in the Passports Law that gives the Cabinet and the interior minister the authority to grant “regular passports” to investors and for humanitarian reasons.

The move triggered strong discussion under the Dome, with some MPs expressing fears that this provision could open the door for unlawful practices by the government.

They demanded that the amendment specify the cases under which the Cabinet could grant regular passports to non-Jordanians.

Under the amended article, authorities can grant investors “regular passports” valid from one to five years, based on a recommendation from the interior minister.

The holder of the passport does not receive Jordanian nationality and the government can withdraw the passport at any time. The amendment also authorises the director of the Civil Status and Passports Department to grant “regular passports” that are valid for less than a year for humanitarian reasons.

Interior Minister Hussein Majali said this would serve a large segment of society, particularly the sons of Jordanian women married to foreigners, who seek to work outside the country or to travel.

However, Deputy Bassam Btoush (Karak, 3rd District) expressed fears that this amendment would threaten the Palestinian cause if abused by granting passports to Palestinian refugees who wish to travel, arguing that the passport is a step towards granting them nationality and harming their right to return to their homeland in Palestine.

“There are no hidden agendas behind this proposal,” Majali said, adding that it is aimed at attracting foreign investors to the Kingdom and to deal with a “very limited” number of humanitarians cases.

But some MPs said the Kingdom is hosting 35 nationalities, insisting that the amendment will open the door for abuse by future governments if not this one.

Meanwhile, the Lower House decided to refer the draft amendments to the Anti-Corruption Commission Law to its legal committee for review.

The MPs also referred proposed amendments to the 2103 Municipalities Law to the Financial Committee to examine the impact of the changes on citizens.

Prime Minster Abdullah Ensour said the new provision provides all producers and suppliers of oil derivatives with equal opportunities in connection to “fuel taxes”.

Currently, the Jordan Petroleum Refinery Company adds 8 per cent to the cost of oil derivates designated to support the municipalities.

But since that the 50-year concession agreement with the refinery has ended and there are three other companies working in this sector, it is inevitable to amend the provision in a way that addresses this.

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