New United States Restrictions on Foreign Travelers
This is Steve Ember with In the News, in VOA Special English.
The United States has placed new travel restrictions on foreign airline passengers who have to change planes at American airports. Officials say the change in the rules is because of threats of terrorist attacks.
The Department of Homeland Security announced the suspension of two programs. These programs permitted foreign travelers to wait for connections at American airports without the need for entry visas. The department says intelligence reports suggested that terrorists could be planning to use these programs to get into the country.
The restrictions will affect travelers from all but twenty-seven nations. The new requirements will remain in effect for at least two months while officials study them. Travelers with connecting flights at American airports must now get a visa to enter the United States. The federal government says the restrictions will affect about six-hundred-thousand travelers around the world.
Government officials say the threat of hijackings in the United States has increased. Recent warnings said teams of five men might try to hide weapons in electronic equipment or children's toys. The warnings said they would try to seize control just before landing or just after takeoff and crash the planes into nearby targets.
The attacks on September eleventh, two-thousand-one, involved planes hijacked after takeoff.
Travelers affected by the new restrictions will now have to go to an American diplomatic office to request a visa. The American Travel Industry Association says the new security measures will stop many people from coming to the United States. The government says it wants to keep the doors to the country open, but must also work to keep the borders safe.
Details of the new travel restrictions are on the Web site of the Department of Homeland Security. The address is w-w-w dot d-h-s dot g-o-v. Again, that's w-w-w dot d-h-s dot g-o-v. (www.dhs.gov)
In addition, the department has warned officials at airports to examine radios and other electronic devices more closely. Officials said these could hide explosives. They also warned that common objects could hold unusual kinds of weapons.
News reports this week said the administration has also sent security experts to countries in Europe and Asia to warn of possible attacks. Officials say terrorists may try to use heat-seeking missiles against passenger planes in Iraq, Greece, Turkey and the Philippines. The American experts are working with officials in those nations to increase security around airports.
American officials say the threat in Iraq comes from forces loyal to former president Saddam Hussein. They link the threat in the other places to the al-Qaida group.
This VOA Special English program In the News was written by Nancy Steinbach. This is Steve Ember.