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White House spokesman says order is 'not a travel ban' (despite Trump saying it was yesterday)

The ban has been described as “mean-spirited” by the UN.

Image: Eugene Hoshiko/PA Images

Updated at 22.55

WHITE HOUSE PRESS Secretary Sean Spicer has said that an executive order signed by President Donald Trump effectively banning travellers from seven nations from entering the US was “not a travel ban”.

Speaking to reporters today, Spicer said that the travel restrictions were to “keep America safe”.

“Well, first of all, it’s not a travel ban,” he said. ”This is not a Muslim ban. It’s not a travel ban.

“It’s a vetting system to keep America safe. That’s it. Plain and simple.”

This appears to be a contradiction of Trump, who yesterday tweeted:

Spicer also called it a ban himself yesterday at George Washington University’s School of Media and Public Affairs, saying “the ban deals with seven countries that the Obama administration had previously identified as needing further travel restrictions.”

The travel ban has caused shockwaves through the United States, with mass protests being held across the country. It has also brought sharp international criticism.

Earlier, UN secretary general Antonio Guterres said such “blind measures” are unlikely to be effective in fighting terrorism.

Guterres said countries seeking to strengthen control of their borders cannot do so “based on any form of discrimination related to religion, ethnicity or nationality.”

Such discrimination “triggers widespread anxiety and anger that may facilitate the propaganda of the very terrorist organisations we all want to fight against,” Guterres said in his first statement on the controversy.

The order

Trump signed an executive order suspending the arrival of all refugees for a minimum of 120 days, Syrian refugees indefinitely, and barring citizens from Iran, Iraq, Libya, Somalia, Sudan, Syria and Yemen for 90 days.

It has been estimated by the Washington Post that over 90,000 visa holders have been affected by the blanket ban.

This number was derived from latest State Department figures which indicated the number of visas issued to residents of the banned countries.

United Nations - Holocaust Remembrance Secretary-General António Guterres Source: Bebeto Matthews/PA Images

The decision triggered protests and chaos at airports while UN human rights chief Zeid bin Ra’ad Zeid al-Hussein declared it illegal and “mean-spirited”.

Banned

“Blind measures, not based on solid intelligence, tend to be ineffective as they risk being bypassed by what are today sophisticated global terrorist movements,” said Guterres.

Also, the US Embassy in Dublin clarified that the executive order does not restrict the travel of dual-nationals, so long as they hold the passport of an unrestricted country and possess a valid US visa.

Also, the embassies and consulates worldwide will process visa applications and issue non-immigrant and immigrant visas to otherwise eligible applicants who apply with a passport from an unrestricted country, even if they hold dual-nationality from one of the seven banned nations.

Guterres earlier said through his spokesman that he hoped the US measure was temporary, but did not condemn it, nor did he urge Trump to reverse course.

In the statement released today, Guterres did not explicitly mention the US ban, but there was no doubt his statement was a response to the controversial measure.

He said he was concerned by decisions around the world that are undermining international refugee protection.

“This is against the fundamental principles and values on which our societies are based,” said the UN chief.

Yesterday, Human Rights Watch had called on Guterres to clearly denounce the ban.

“At a time when governments, civil society and business leaders are increasingly speaking out, it’s important that the UN’s message not come solely from the UN human rights chief,” said HRW deputy director for global advocacy Philippe Bolopion.

“Secretary-General Guterres should take a clear stand that Trump’s executive order is a blow to refugees, reflects bigotry and will do little to address terrorism.”

© – AFP 2017 with AP

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