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Confusion and outrage over Trump migrant ban as UK secures exemption

The new American president has ruffled feathers globally with his ban on refugees from Muslim-dominated countries entering the US.

Trump Refugees Seattle Protesters taking part in a rally against Trump's refugee ban in Seattle yesterday evening Source: AP/Press Association Images

THE FALLOUT FROM the Trump administration’s decision to temporarily ban travellers from certain Muslim-dominated countries from entering the country continues this morning, while the UK and Australia have secured exemptions from the order.

Shortly after British prime minister Theresa May held talks with Trump at the White House on Friday, the new president signed an executive order to suspend refugee arrivals and impose tough new controls on travellers from seven Muslim countries.

Trump’s move has prompted a number of online petitions, including one aimed at stopping him making a planned state visit to Britain.

By early this morning that petition to the British parliament had attracted almost 900,000 signatures.

In Ireland, meanwhile, another petition, this one aimed at halting Taoiseach Enda Kenny’s planned visit to the White House on St Patrick’s Day, has collected nearly 27,000 signatures.

British PM May sparked controversy at the weekend after refusing to condemn Trump’s immigration clampdown when pressed by journalists during a trip to Turkey, but later issued a stronger statement as it emerged British citizens had been affected.

“Immigration policy in the United States is a matter for the government of the United States, just the same as immigration policy for this country should be set by our government,” a spokesman from her office said on yesterday.

“But we do not agree with this kind of approach and it is not one we will be taking,” the spokesman added.

Foreign Minister Boris Johnson said it was “divisive and wrong to stigmatise because of nationality.”

Condemnation

Criticism of Trump from other world leaders is mounting, with several significant exceptions.

Canadian prime minister Justin Trudeau has declared that his country will accept any refugees refused by the US, a sentiment echoed by Scottish leader Nicola Sturgeon.

Germany’s Angela Merkel has said that the war on terrorism “does not justify putting people of a specific background or faith under general suspicion” according to a Reuters report, while French foreign minister Jean-Marc Ayrault has said that “terrorism knows no nationality”.

Discrimination is no response.

Iraq meanwhile is reportedly considering a reciprocal ban on visas for US workers there, while Iranian foreign minister Javad Zarif said Trump’s order will be “recorded in history as a great gift to extremists and their supporters”.

Dutch far right politician Geert Wilders, however, expressed his total support for the ban, declaring it the “only way to stay safe and free”.

Australia’s prime minister Malcolm Turnbull, whose country has also benefited from an exemption to the ban, said that “it is not my job as Prime Minister of Australia, to run a commentary on the domestic policies of other countries” according to news.com.au.

Harvard

Reaction to the ban from America’s most senior academics has likewise been less than enthusiastic.

Many of them gathered yesterday at the world-famous Massachusetts Institute of Technology (MIT) in protest at a move that they say will weaken the ability of US institutions to attract exceptional foreign academic talent on scholarships.

“It’s certainly ill-judged and likely counterproductive,” Richard Lester, a professor at MIT, told the Boston Globe.

Our community is here because they are contributing research and new knowledge creation that benefits this country.

President of Harvard Drew Faust produced possibly the most hard-hitting of all the letters emanating from dismayed academics, asking the federal agencies to consider the impact of Trump’s ban on US universities.

drew Excerpt from Harvard president Drew Faust's letter

Faust quoted Seamus Heaney in his 1,500-word missive calling on all those “committed to the strength of American higher education” to act together:

“Let us do so – to borrow the words of the poet Seamus Heaney, one of Harvard’s most beloved visitors from other shores – with our gates unbarred.”

UK wins exemption

High-profile British citizens caught up in the new US rules included double-double Olympic champion Mo Farah, who slammed a policy based on “ignorance and prejudice” that could keep him apart from his US-based family.

“On 1 January this year, Her Majesty The Queen made me a Knight of the Realm. On 27 January, President Donald Trump seems to have made me an alien,” wrote the athlete, who represents Britain but was born in Somalia.

Iraqi-born MP Nadhim Zahawi, from May’s Conservative Party, had earlier revealed he would be barred from entering the US under the clampdown.

“A sad, sad day to feel like a second class citizen! Sad day for the USA,” he added.

But later yesterday Johnson won an exemption for British citizens and dual nationals after he discussed the matter with Washington.

The foreign ministry subsequently announced the order would only apply to individuals travelling directly to the US from one of the seven listed countries – Iraq, Iran, Libya, Somalia, Syria, Yemen and Sudan.

“If you are travelling to the US from anywhere other than one of those countries (for instance, the UK) the executive order does not apply to you and you will experience no extra checks regardless of your nationality or your place of birth,” the foreign ministry said in a statement.

The foreign ministry added that dual nationals might have extra checks if they are coming from one of the seven named countries, “for example a UK-Libya dual national coming from Libya to the US”.

Following the foreign ministry advice a spokeswoman for Farah said he was “relieved” but nonetheless “fundamentally disagrees” with Trump’s order.

Zahawi praised the government for securing assurances for British citizens, adding that he still believed the new US rules amount to a “mistaken policy”.

Pressure mounts on May

Trump’s move prompted protests globally and demonstrators are due to gather outside Downing Street today and hold rallies in cities across Britain.

Domestic pressure has mounted on May to distance herself from Trump, with opposition Labour party leader Jeremy Corbyn urging the government to put off the president’s scheduled state visit until the ban is rescinded.

May “would be failing the British people if she does not postpone the state visit and condemn Trump’s actions in the clearest terms,” he wrote on Twitter.

The online petition against Trump’s planned state visit later this year will be considered for debate in parliament, but a government spokesman said the invitation “was extended and has been accepted” by Washington.

Additional reporting © – AFP, 2017

Read: Six people have died after gunmen opened fire at a mosque in Canada

Read: In photos: Trump’s travel ban sparks protests in airports across the US

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