Rattled by US refugee ban, world leaders say they won’t follow suit
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Rattled by US refugee ban, world leaders say they won’t follow suit

Hollande calls for 'firm' European response as most countries say refugees still welcome; Israel mum on move

British Prime Minister Theresa May, left, speaks during a joint press conference with Turkey's Prime Minister Binali Yildirim in Ankara on January 28, 2017. (AFP/ Adem ALTAN)
British Prime Minister Theresa May, left, speaks during a joint press conference with Turkey's Prime Minister Binali Yildirim in Ankara on January 28, 2017. (AFP/ Adem ALTAN)

US President Doanld Trump’s order banning arrivals from seven Muslim majority countries sent shockwaves across the world Saturday and Sunday, with France’s leader calling for a “firm response” and Iran saying the move was “a great gift to extremists.”

Others though, including in Israel, offered a more muted response to the sweeping executive order to suspend refugee arrivals and bar visas for travelers from Iran, Iraq, Libya, Somalia, Sudan, Syria and Yemen.

French President Francois Hollande urged Europe to form a united front and provide a “firm” response to US President Donald Trump, at a gathering Saturday of southern European Union leaders.

“We must conduct firm dialogue with the new American administration which has shown it has its own approach to the problems we all face,” he said at the end of the gathering as he was flanked by the other leaders who took part in the summit in Lisbon, Portugal.

The office of British Prime Minister Theresa May, who visited the United States late last week, said that she did not agree with Trump’s policy.

“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 statement from Downing Street read. “But we do not agree with this kind of approach and it is not one we will be taking.”

In Israel, despite Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu taking a stance against Trump’s proposal to ban Muslims while on the campaign trail a year ago, the actual move on Friday was met by silence.

However, Netanyahu did praise Trump’s push for a border wall with Mexico, saying that Israel’s fence on the Egyptian border had successfully stemmed illegal immigration.

Iran’s foreign ministry released a statement saying it would reciprocate with a ban on Americans entering the country.

In a string of tweets, Iranian Foreign Minister Mohammad Javad Zarif struck out against the move.

“#MuslimBan will be recorded in history as a great gift to extremists and their supporters,” Zarif said. “Collective discrimination aids terrorist recruitment by deepening fault-lines exploited by extremist demagogues to swell their ranks.”

But Zarif added that Iran’s restrictions would not apply to Americans who already have a valid visa.

“Unlike the US, our decision is not retroactive. All with valid Iranian visa will be gladly welcomed,” he wrote.

President Donald Trump holds up a signed Executive Order in the Oval Office of the White House, Saturday, Jan. 28, 2017 in Washington. (AP Photo/Alex Brandon)
President Donald Trump holds up a signed Executive Order in the Oval Office of the White House, Saturday, Jan. 28, 2017 in Washington. (AP Photo/Alex Brandon)

With more than one million Iranians living in the United States, the travel restrictions are expected to cause chaos for students, businessmen and families traveling between the two countries. Iranian Jews also make up a large number of the expat community in the United States.

The prime minister of Turkey, Binali Yildarim, which has admitted some 3 million Syrian refugees, scolded Trump for the ban.

“You cannot settle this (refugee) issue by building walls. Nobody leaves their homes for nothing,” he said. “They came here to save their lives and our doors were open. And if the same thing happened again, we would do it again.”

German Foreign Minister Sigmar Gabriel said: “‘Love thy neighbor’ is part of this (American Christian) tradition, the act of helping others.”

And French Foreign Minister Jean-Marc Ayrault noted that his country would not follow Trump’s lead.

“We have signed international obligations, so welcoming refugees fleeing war and oppression forms part of our duties.”

From left to right: Greek Prime Minister Alexis Tsipras, Spanish Prime Minister Maiano Rajoy, French President Francois Hollande, Portuguese Prime Minister Antonio Costa, Cypriot President Nicos Anastasiades, Maltese Prime Minister Joseph Muscat, Italian Prime Minister Paolo Gentiloni pose for a photo at the Southern EU countries summit held at Belem cultural center, Lisbon, January 28, 2017. (AFP/PATRICIA DE MELO MOREIRA)
From left to right: Greek Prime Minister Alexis Tsipras, Spanish Prime Minister Maiano Rajoy, French President Francois Hollande, Portuguese Prime Minister Antonio Costa, Cypriot President Nicos Anastasiades, Maltese Prime Minister Joseph Muscat, Italian Prime Minister Paolo Gentiloni pose for a photo at the Southern EU countries summit held at Belem cultural center, Lisbon, January 28, 2017. (AFP/PATRICIA DE MELO MOREIRA)

In a phone phone conversation with Trump late Saturday, Hollande stressed the “economic and political consequences of a protectionist approach,” adding that the principle of “acceptance of refugees” should be respected.

“Faced with an unstable and uncertain world, withdrawal into oneself is a dead-end response,” Hollande was quoted as saying in an Elysee Palace statement.

Hollande had earlier told the gathering that “when he adopts protectionist measures, which could destabilize economies not just in Europe but the economies of the main countries of the world, we have to respond.”

“And when he refuses the arrival of refugees, while Europe has done its duty, we have to respond.”

Canada welcomes refugees

Canadian Prime Minister Justin Trudeau reacted to Trump’s visa ban for people from certain Muslim-majority countries by tweeting Saturday: “To those fleeing persecution, terror & war, Canadians will welcome you, regardless of your faith. Diversity is our strength #WelcomeToCanada.”

Trudeau also posted a picture of him greeting a Syrian child at Toronto’s airport in late 2015. Trudeau oversaw the arrival of more than 39,000 Syrian refugees soon after he was elected.

A spokeswoman for Trudeau said he has a message for 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 The Associated Press.

Trudeau is expected to the visit the White House soon.

The prime minister has refrained from criticizing Trump to avoid offending the new president. Canada wants to avoid becoming a target like Mexico has. More than 75 percent of Canada’s exports go to the US.

Brad Wall, the conservative premier of the Canadian province of Saskatchewan, offered his support to Trudeau.

“Sask has welcomed approx 2000 refugees this past year,” Wall posted on Twitter. “We stand ready to assist fed gov’t re: anyone stranded by the US ban.”

Toronto Mayor John Tory also weighed in, noting that the city is the most diverse in the world.

“We understand that as Canadians we are almost all immigrants, and that no one should be excluded on the basis of their ethnicity or nationality,” Tory said in a statement.

White House National Security adviser Michael Flynn told Canada’s national security adviser that holders of Canadian passports, including dual citizens, will not be affected by the ban, Purchase said.

“We have been assured that Canadian citizens traveling on Canadian passports will be dealt with in the usual process,” Purchase said.

Trudeau later posted the statement on Twitter with the hashtag “ACanadianIsACanadian.”

Earlier the US State Department said that Canadians with dual citizenship from Iran, Iraq, Sudan, Somalia, Syria, Yemen and Libya would be denied entry for the next three months.

Canadian Prime Minister Justin Trudeau, left, greets Georgina Zires, center, Madeleine Jamkossian, second right, and her father Kevork Jamkossian, refugees fleeing from Syria, as they arrive at Pearson International airport, in Toronto, December 11, 2015. (Nathan Denette/The Canadian Press via AP)
Canadian Prime Minister Justin Trudeau, left, greets Georgina Zires, center, Madeleine Jamkossian, second right, and her father Kevork Jamkossian, refugees fleeing from Syria, as they arrive at Pearson International airport, in Toronto, December 11, 2015. (Nathan Denette/The Canadian Press via AP)

The Syrian refugee crisis became a major issue in Canada’s election in late 2015 because of the haunting image of a drowned 3-year-old Syrian boy washed up on a Turkish beach. The boy had relatives in Canada. Tima Kurdi, the aunt of the boy who became a symbol of the Syrian refugee crisis, called the US ban on Syrian refugees inhumane and said she was proud of Canada.

Trudeau’s tweet quickly received more than 150,000 likes. “Welcome to Canada” trended on social media in the country.

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