World leaders urge Trump to rethink his “unfair” ban on refugees
World leaders, activists and rights groups were quick to condemn President Trump’s executive order prohibiting citizens from seven Muslim-majority countries — Iraq, Syria, Iran, Yemen, Sudan, Libya and Somalia — from entering the U.S.
On Saturday, Germany’s Angela Merkel used part of her first phone call with President Trump to discuss the Geneva refugee convention rules. Merkel’s spokesman Steffen Seibert said the German chancellor regretted Trump’s decision and was convinced that the “battle against terrorism does not justify a general suspicion against people of a certain origin or a certain religion.”
French President François Hollande was less reserved and warned Trump that “In an unstable and uncertain world, turning inward would be a dead-end.”
Meanwhile, Canadian Prime Minister Justin Trudeau responded to the ban by reiterating his country’s policy of welcoming all refugees regardless of their faith:
To those fleeing persecution, terror & war, Canadians will welcome you, regardless of your faith. Diversity is our strength #WelcomeToCanada
— Justin Trudeau (@JustinTrudeau) January 28, 2017
U.K. Prime Minister Theresa May, who Friday became the first world leader to officially meet with President Trump, was notably quiet and avoided criticizing the president for much of the day. But her warm embrace of the new president the day before along with her silence following Trump’s controversial order was quickly and strongly condemned by many in her home country. And by early Sunday morning she was forced to issue a cautious statement condemning Trump’s travel ban:
“We do not agree with this kind of approach and it is not one we will be taking. We are studying this new executive order to see what it means and what the legal effects are, and in particular what the consequences are for UK nationals. If there is any impact on UK nationals then clearly we will make representations to the US government about that.”
But May’s statement stopped short of any outright denunciation, and she was criticized by both sides of the political spectrum for waiting so long before releasing her official response.
MP’s from her own party did not hold back in their anger at the new executive order:
6.Trump really is a sickening piece of work. That's the story
— Sarah Wollaston MP (@sarahwollaston) January 28, 2017
Strong leadership means not being afraid to tell someone powerful when they're wrong. It's an ethos this country is proud of @theresa_may
— Heidi Allen MP (@heidiallen75) January 28, 2017
When you do something astonishingly dumb, your closest friends need to tell you. That's what special relationships are for.
— David Warburton MP (@DJWarburton) January 28, 2017
Nadeem Zahawi, a Conservative politician who fled Iraq as a child, revealed that he was personally affected by the order.
I'm a British citizen & so proud to have been welcomed to this country. Sad to hear ill be banned from the USA based on my country of birth
— Nadhim Zahawi (@nadhimzahawi) January 28, 2017
U.K. Olympic medal-winning runner Sir Mo Farah, who lives in the U.S., posted a message on his Facebook page, explaining that he may be banned from entering the country where his family lives, since he was born in Somalia.
“On 1st January this year, Her Majesty The Queen made me a Knight of the Realm. On 27th January, President Donald Trump seems to have made me an alien.”
A U.K. petition to prevent Donald Trump from making a state visit later this year has already received over 530,000 signatures at the time of writing. Any petition that reaches 100,000 signatures ensures that the issue will be considered for debate in the U.K parliament.
Iranian President Hassan Rouhani, who welcomed a nuclear deal with the U.S. in 2015, also condemned the move, saying: “Today is not the time to erect walls between nations. They have forgotten that the Berlin wall fell years ago.”
The Iraqi government, still reliant on crucial U.S. military support in their war against ISIS, tried to strike a diplomatic balance, expressing their desire that the ban “not affect the efforts of strengthening and developing the bilateral relations between Iraq and the United States”
Yet Iraqi parliamentary members were less forgiving, calling the ban “unfair” and urging their government to respond in kind. “We ask the Iraqi government to reciprocate to the decision taken by the US administration.”
Nobel laureate Malala Yousafzai condemned Trump’s order and said she was heartbroken “that America is turning its back on a proud history of welcoming refugees and immigrants – the people who helped build your country.”
Other leaders in Europe seemingly agreed with Yousafzai. French Foreign Minister Jean-Marc Ayrault said “The reception of refugees fleeing the war, fleeing oppression, is part of our duties.” At the same press conference, German Foreign Minister Sigmar Gabriel said “Loving your neighbor is a major Christian value, and that includes helping people.”
Yet Trump didn’t get bad grades from everyone, receiving support from his usual cadre of hard-right international admirers.
Nigel Farage, former United Kingdom Independence party (UKIP) leader and Fox News commentator, defended the president’s plans, and called for a similar policy to be introduced in the U.K: “He is fully entitled to do this, and as far as we are concerned in this country, yes I would like to see extreme vetting.”
Far-right, anti-Islam Dutch politician Geert Wilders supported Trump’s decision, tweeting that “Islam and freedom are incompatible.”
No more immigration from any Islamic country is exactly what we need.
Also in The Netherlands
For islam and freedom are incompatible.
— Geert Wilders (@geertwilderspvv) January 29, 2017
And at a protest in Athens organized by the far-right neo-fascist Golden Dawn, Greek right-wingers took to the streets Saturday to decry immigration, with one demonstrator telling German broadcaster DW: “We would like to follow a policy like the one that Donald Trump has in the states right now.”
Cover: (REUTERS/Axel Schmidt )