Trump team denies immigration order 'chaos'

  • 30/01/2017
Protesters hold signs in opposition to US President Donald Trump at JFK Airport (Reuters)
Protesters hold signs in opposition to US President Donald Trump at JFK Airport (Reuters)

The White House is defending its implementation of US President Donald Trump's executive action targeting immigration from seven predominantly Muslim countries, and says "only" two dozen travellers remain detained.

"It wasn't chaos," chief of staff Reince Priebus said on NBC's Meet the Press program on Sunday, adding that 325,000 travellers entered the United States on Saturday and 109 of them were detained.

"Most of those people were moved out. We've got a couple dozen more that remain and I would suspect that as long as they're not awful people, that they will move through before another half a day today," he said.

A global backlash against the immigration crackdown is gathering pace however, as several countries - including long-standing American allies - criticise the measures as discriminatory and divisive.

On Sunday governments from London and Berlin to Jakarta and Tehran spoke out against Mr Trump's order to put a four-month hold on allowing refugees into the United States and temporarily ban travellers from Syria and six other Muslim-majority countries, which he said would help protect Americans from terrorism.

In Germany - which has taken in large numbers of people fleeing the Syrian civil war - Chancellor Angela Merkel said the global fight against terrorism was no excuse for the measures and "does not justify putting people of a specific background or faith under general suspicion".

She expressed her concerns to Mr Trump during a phone call and reminded him that the Geneva Conventions require the international community to take in war refugees on humanitarian grounds, the spokesman added.

Merkel's sentiments were echoed in Paris and London; "Terrorism knows no nationality. Discrimination is no response," said French Foreign minister Jean-Marc Ayrault, while his British counterpart Boris Johnson tweeted: "Divisive and wrong to stigmatise because of nationality."

'Not a Muslim ban'

Along with Syria, the US ban affects travellers with passports from Iran, Iraq, Libya, Somalia, Sudan, Syria and Yemen.

Mr Trump said his order, which indefinitely bans refugees from Syria, was "not a Muslim ban", though he added he would seek to prioritise Christian refugees fleeing the war-torn country.

He said on Twitter that Christians in the Middle East were being "executed in large numbers".

According to the United Nations, Islamic State militants have killed far more Muslims than Christians.

Washington's Arab allies, including the Gulf states and Egypt, were mostly silent.

The government in Iraq, which is allied with Washington in the battle against ultra-hardline Islamist group Islamic State and hosts over 5000 US troops, also did not comment on the executive order.

But some members of the parliament said Iraq should retaliate with similar measures against the United States.

In Baghdad, influential Shi'ite cleric Moqtada al-Sadr said American nationals should leave Iraq, in retaliation for the travel curbs.

There was no immediate reaction to the curbs from Islamic State, although in the past it has used US monitoring of Muslim foreigners to stoke Muslim anger against Washington.

The Tehran government vowed to respond in kind to the US ban on visitors from Iran, but on Sunday Foreign Minister Mohammad Javad Zarif said on Twitter that Americans who already hold Iranian visas can enter the country.

In Jakarta, Indonesian Foreign Minister Retno Marsudi said the Muslim-majority nation deeply regretted Trump's plans for "extreme vetting" of people from some Muslim countries.

The Danish, Swedish and Norwegian governments all registered their opposition, with Danish foreign minister Anders Samuelsen tweeting: "The US decision not to allow entry of people from certain countries is NOT fair."

Canadian Prime Minister Justin Trudeau said his country welcomed those fleeing war and persecution, even as Canadian airlines said they would turn back US-bound passengers to comply with an immigration ban on people from seven Muslim-majority countries.

"To those fleeing persecution, terror & war, Canadians will welcome you, regardless of your faith. Diversity is our strength #WelcomeToCanada," he tweeted.

Reuters / Newshub.