News World Australian travellers caught up in Donald Trump’s refugee ban

Australian travellers caught up in Donald Trump’s refugee ban

airport trump protesters
Protesters at New York's JFK Airport protest against refugees being detained while trying to enter the US. Photo: AP
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UPDATE 9:05am President Donald Trump, trying to quell backlash over his “extreme vetting” order, says the US will resume issuing visas to all countries once secure policies are put in place over the next 90 days.

Under an order he signed on Friday, which may impact some Australians with dual citizenships, immigrants from seven Muslim-majority countries were barred from entering the United States.

The decision has drawn large protests at many US airports, where some travellers from those countries have been stranded.

“To be clear, this is not a Muslim ban, as the media is falsely reporting,” Mr Trump said on Monday morning (AEDT). “This is not about religion – this is about terror and keeping our country safe. There are over 40 different countries worldwide that are majority Muslim that are not affected by this order.

“We will again be issuing visas to all countries once we are sure we have reviewed and implemented the most secure policies over the next 90 days,” he said.

Meantime Australian travellers are warned they may be denied entry to the United States under Donald Trump’s new ban on people from seven Muslim-majority nations.

At least one of the court challenges has borne fruit, with a US federal judge issuing an emergency stay to Mr Trump’s executive order.

The President’s executive order, issued on Friday local time, puts a four-month hold on allowing refugees into the United States and temporarily bars travellers from Iran, Iraq, Libya, Somalia, Sudan, Syria and Yemen.

Mr Trump said the moves would protect Americans from terrorism.

Australians warned

The Department of Foreign Affairs and Trade (DFAT) updated its travel advice for the US with the warning that Australians who have travelled to any of the seven banned countries since March 1, 2011 will need the usual Electronic System for Travel Authorisation (ESTA) entry under the Visa Waiver Program.

DFAT said the ban would not apply to people travelling to the seven countries on official Australian Defence Force or government business.

It said the Secretary of Homeland Security may waive the travel restrictions on a case by case basis for a range of travellers to the countries including those working for charities, journalists and people visiting for legitimate business reasons.

In addition, Australians who are dual citizens of any of the seven affected countries are no longer eligible to apply for an ESTA.

“Any of these Australians who have previously been issued an ESTA are likely to have the ESTA revoked,” DFAT said.

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Donald Trump holds up the executive actions signed in the Oval Office. Photo: Getty

Mr Trump told reporters in the White House’s Oval Office on Saturday local time that his order was “not a Muslim ban” and said the measures were long overdue.

“It’s working out very nicely. You see it at the airports, you see it all over,” he said.

There were dramatic scenes in the United States as protesters chanted “let them in” and “this is what America looks like” at major airports where border agents detained refugees.

A US Department of Homeland Security official told Reuters that of roughly 375 travellers affected by the executive order, 109 were in transit to the US and denied entry into the country. Another 173 people were stopped by airlines from boarding an aircraft to the US.

Temporary stay

Some travellers were given a reprieve when Judge Ann Donnelly of the US District Court in New York issued an emergency stay on Saturday local time that temporarily blocks the government from sending people out of the country after they have landed at an American airport with valid visas. 

“I am directing the government to stop removal if there is someone right now in danger of being removed,” she said in the court hearing. “No one is to be removed in this class.”

The emergency court ruling was in response to a case filed by the American Civil Liberties Union (ACLU) on behalf of Iraqi men Hameed Khalid Darweesh, who had been an interpreter for the US military, and Haider Sameer Abdulkhaleq Alshawi.

The court action does not reverse Mr Trump’s order.

The ACLU estimates the stay will affect 100 to 200 people detained at US airports or in transit.

Supporters outside the Brooklyn courtroom and at protests at airports cheered the decision.

Conflict of interest

America’s National Public Radio reported that while Mr Trump takes steps to restrict visitors from some majority-Muslim countries, he and his family continue to do business in some of the others.

“Critics say it appears that Trump is picking favourites, overlooking terrorist links in countries such as Saudi Arabia and Turkey that have their own history of terrorism,” NPR reported.

It pointed out that: “No Muslim extremist from any of these places has carried out a fatal attack in the US in more than two decades.”

The 19 terrorists in the September 11 attacks were from Saudi Arabia, Egypt, Lebanon and the United Arab Emirates, all among the “Muslim-majority countries not affected by Trump’s immigration freeze, but where Trump does business”.

Trudeau’s message

Canadian Prime Minister Justin Trudeau, meanwhile, has told refugees rejected by the US they are welcome in his country.

He also intends to talk to Mr Trump about the success of Canada’s refugee policy, The Associated Press reported.

Mr Trudeau reacted to Mr Trump’s ban of Muslims from certain countries by tweeting on Saturday: “To those fleeing persecution, terror & war, Canadians will welcome you, regardless of your faith. Diversity is our strength #WelcomeToCanada.”

Mr Trudeau also posted a picture of him greeting a Syrian child at Toronto’s airport in 2015.

Mr Trudeau oversaw the arrival of more than 39,000 Syrian refugees soon after he was elected.

A spokeswoman for Mr Trudeau told AP the Canadian PM has a message for Mr Trump.

“The Prime Minister is looking forward to discussing the successes of Canada’s immigration and refugee policy with the President when they next speak,” spokeswoman Kate Purchase told AP.

For further developments overnight on reaction to the ban, click here.

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