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Trump expands travel ban to include two non-Muslim nations

Trump expands travel ban to include two non-Muslim nations

WASHINGTON: The Trump administration announced late on Sunday night that it was replacing its travel ban with a new proclamation barring visitors from eight countries, adding two non-Muslim countries to the previously all Muslim list.

The new directive retains Iran, Libya, Somalia, Syria and Yemen from the previously all-Muslim list. And it adds three new nations, Chad, North Korea and Venezuela. Chad is the only Muslim majority country in the additional list.

The ban becomes effective on Oct 18 and remains in place indefinitely until the targeted nations toughen their security procedures. Venezuela’s restrictions narrowly apply to that nation’s government officials — and their immediate relatives — who are responsible for traveller screening procedures.

One country, Sudan, fell off the travel ban list, which was issued at the beginning of the year. Senior administration officials said a review of Sudan’s cooperation with the US government on national security and information-sharing showed it was appropriate to remove it from the list.

A White House proclamation said the banned nations were not doing enough to block terrorists from reaching the United States.

“The travel ban, the tougher, the better,” President Donald Trump told reporters in Washington on Sunday evening.

“With this Proclamation, the president is carrying out his duty to protect the American people,” said US Secretary of State Rex Tillerson. “We will continue to work closely with our allies and partners who share our commitment to national and global security.”

Becca Heller, the director of the International Refugee Assistance Project, a petitioner in the case, told CNN that her group saw the new order as yet another attempt at banning Muslims from entering the country”.

“Of those countries, Chad is majority Muslim, travel from North Korea is already basically frozen and the restrictions on Venezuela only affect government officials on certain visas,” she said. Naureen Shah, of Amnesty International USA, told reporters that these restrictions will likely introduce further uncertainty for ordinary people who rely on the ability to travel, study and work in the US.

“Amnesty will be monitoring to see the effects of this revised ban on the lives of men, women and children around the world,” she said.

The new restrictions will be phased in over time and the restrictions will not affect anyone who already holds a US visa, US officials said. The first version of Trump’s travel bans — announced in January — triggered angry demonstrations across the United States and ultimately stalled amid constitutional challenges. President Trump replaced it in March with an order barring visitors from six Muslim-majority countries: Iran, Libya, Somalia, Sudan, Syria and Yemen.

It also halted the US refugee resettlement program, which affected an estimated 10,000 Syrian refugees that the Obama administration was willing to settle in the country. Senior Trump officials said on Sunday they would soon announce plans for next year’s refugee resettlements but it’s not clear if Syrian refugees will be included.

The Trump administration wants major world powers to help building refugee settlements close to the refugees’ home countries to prevent them from heading west.

On Sunday, Trump officials told various US media outlets that the new travel ban does not discriminate against any nation or religion and its only intention is to protect the United States from future terrorist attacks.

Earlier this month, the US Supreme Court temporarily allowed the Trump administration to block many refugees from six mostly Muslim countries listed in the first travel ban. Those with direct familial ties in the United States, however, were exempted form this ban.

The court hears arguments on the ban’s constitutionality on October 10. The US media noted that Sunday’s presidential order could delay the hearing and even stop the justices from weighing in on the legality of the original order.

On Monday, US Solicitor General Noel J. Francisco filed a letter with the Supreme Court suggesting that the justices request supplemental briefs from both sides by Oct 5 because of the new restrictions the president has outlined.

Published in Dawn, September 26th, 2017

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