Muslim countries with Trump business interests avoid ban

  • 29/01/2017

President Donald Trump's most far-reaching action since taking office plunged America's immigration system into chaos on Saturday, not only for refugees but for legal US residents who were turned away at airports and feared being stranded outside the country.

The new Republican president on Friday put a four-month hold on allowing refugees into the United States and temporarily barred travelers from Syria and six other Muslim-majority countries. He said the moves would protect Americans from terrorism, in a swift and stern delivery on a campaign promise.

"It's not a Muslim ban," Mr Trump said on Saturday after signing more executive orders in the Oval Office. He said such measures should have been in place for years.

The ban affects travellers with passports from Iran, Iraq, Libya, Somalia, Sudan, Syria and Yemen and extends to green card holders who are legal permanent residents of the United States.

Various media outlets have pointed out the ban doesn't cover Saudi Arabia, where the majority of the 9/11 attackers were from, Egypt, the UAE or Turkey - all countries where Mr Trump has deep business ties, reports the New York Daily News.

NPR reports he also has investments in Azerbaijan, Indonesia and Lebanon - all Muslim-majority countries not affected by the travel ban.  

The New York Daily News also pointed to a report by a conservative think tank, which found no US citizens have been killed by citizens of any of the seven banned countries on US soil since 1975.

Thousands of protesters have descended on New York's JFK Airport, demanding "racists out!"

Thousands more are at airports elsewhere in the country, including Washington DC where 1 million marched last week.

Immigration lawyers and advocates worked through the night trying to help stranded travellers find a way back home. Lawyers in New York sued to block the order, saying many people have already been unlawfully detained, including an Iraqi who worked for the US Army in Iraq.

Confusion abounded at airports as immigration and customs officials struggled to interpret the new rules, with some legal residents who were in the air when the order was issued detained at airports upon arrival.

"Imagine being put back on a 12-hour flight and the trauma and craziness of this whole thing," said Mana Yegani, an immigration lawyer in Houston. "These are people that are coming in legally. They have jobs here and they have vehicles here."

Thousands of refugees seeking entry were thrown into limbo. Melanie Nezer of the Hebrew Immigrant Aid Society, a Jewish group that works with refugees, said she knew of roughly 2,000 who were booked to come to the United States next week.

Arab travelers in the Middle East and North Africa said the order was humiliating and discriminatory. It drew widespread criticism from US Western allies including France and Germany, Arab-American groups and human rights organizations.

Iran condemned the order as an "open affront against the Muslim world and the Iranian nation" and vowed to retaliate.

Of the seven countries targeted, Iran sends the most visitors to the United States each year - around 35,000 in 2015, according to the Department of Homeland Security.

Sudan called the action "very unfortunate" after Washington lifted sanctions on the country just weeks ago for cooperation on combating terrorism. A Yemeni official expressed dismay at the ban.

Canadians welcome those fleeing persecution, terror and war "regardless of your faith," Prime Minister Justin Trudeau said in a Twitter post.

During the presidential campaign, Mr Trump promised to clamp down on immigration as a way to prevent attacks. He first proposed a ban on Muslims entering the United States, modifying that later to "extreme vetting" of immigrants from certain countries.

Reuters / Newshub.