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Trump’s ‘Insulting’ Travel Ban Hits Hard

by AFP

Saul Loeb—AFP

Global condemnation for U.S. president’s suspension on refugees, ‘extreme’ vetting for travelers from seven Muslim-majority nations.

Muslims from seven countries were barred on Saturday from flying to the U.S. and others detained there after President Donald Trump froze arrivals, with one man saying his life has been “destroyed.”

Iran, which saw many of its citizens stranded in European and Middle Eastern airports, denounced the “insulting” ban and said it would reciprocate.

Trump on Friday signed a sweeping executive order to suspend the arrival of refugees and impose tough new controls on travelers from Iran, Iraq, Libya, Somalia, Syria and Yemen. His move sparked widespread international criticism and personal heartache.

“Donald Trump destroyed my life,” Iraqi Fuad Sharef, 51, told AFP. He had been in transit in Cairo with his wife and two children when officials told them they could not board an EgyptAir flight to New York’s John F. Kennedy airport.

“I had sold my house, my car, my furniture. I resigned from work and so did my wife. I took my children out of school” to resettle in Nashville, Tennessee under a special immigrant visa, he said. A pharmaceutical industry manager who had previously worked for an NGO subcontracted by the U.S. aid agency, Sharif and his family were put on a flight back to Iraq.

In Tehran, an Iranian studying in California said the new restrictions would affect her studies. “I had a ticket for Turkish Airlines on Feb. 4, but it has been cancelled,” the girl, who did not wish to be identified, told AFP.

Several other Iranians hoping to fly from Europe were also told they could not board U.S.-bound flights, including an elderly couple stranded for the night in Vienna.

Airlines said they had no choice but to respect Trump’s executive order and deny citizens from the seven Muslim-majority countries from traveling to the U.S.

Two travel agencies in Iran said they had been instructed by Etihad Airways, Emirates and Turkish Airlines not to sell U.S. tickets or allow Iranians holding American visas to board U.S.-bound flights. There are no flights from Iran to the United States, where more than a million Iranians live.

Iranian President Hassan Rouhani did not comment directly on the ban on Saturday, but said that now was “not the time to build walls between nations.”

The Islamic republic’s foreign ministry said it would “respond in kind after the insulting decision of the United States concerning Iranian nationals” until the measure is lifted.

Tehran called the decision “illegal, illogical and contrary to international rules.”

In Khartoum, the Sudanese foreign ministry expressed its “regret” at the U.S. ban.

The New York Times reported that two Iraqi refugees with valid visas were detained late Friday at JFK airport just hours after Trump signed the order. On Saturday, the American Civil Liberties Union and other advocacy groups filed a legal challenge to Trump’s order, and asked for their suit to be considered a class action. One of those held, Hameed Khalid Darweesh who has worked for the U.S. government in Iraq for 10 years, was later released. He told reporters “America is the greatest nation, the greatest people in the world.”

But 11 others remain detained at JFK, according to Democratic congressman Jerrold Nadler, who went there to press for the release of the first two.

The United Nations urged Trump to continue his country’s “long tradition” of welcoming refugees and to ensure their equal treatment, regardless of race, nationality or religion.

U.N. spokesman Stephane Dujarric said the world body hopes that Trump’s decision to ban refugees is a temporary measure and that they will again be given protection. French President Francois Hollande said Europe must have a “firm response” to Trump, and “when he refuses the arrival of refugees, while Europe has done its duty, we have to respond.”

Trump’s decree—which he says aims to make America safe from “radical Islamic terrorists”—specifically says no visas will be issued for 90 days to migrants or visitors from the seven Muslim states. It also bars Syrian refugees indefinitely, or until Trump himself decides that they no longer pose a threat.

His decree suspends the entire U.S. refugee resettlement program for at least 120 days while tough new vetting rules are established.

In Lebanon, Syrian refugees struggling to get by in makeshift camps bemoaned their fate. “What on earth have the Syrian people done to deserve this?” asked Abu Mahmoud al-Ghol. “And to think it’s a democratic country doing it,” the 44-year-old said.

Nearly six years of conflict in Syria have driven more than half the population from their homes, with many fleeing abroad and dreaming of new lives in the West.

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