PRESIDENT Donald Trump issued an executive order last Friday (Jan 27), which has caused much furore among the media and public in and outside of the United States (US).
The following came into effect upon the signing of the document: Entry of foreign nationals from seven countries are barred for 90 days, namely – Syria, Iran, Sudan, Libya, Somalia, Yemen and Iraq. Refugee admission will be suspended for four months, because of the need to modify the admission process. And a cap of 50,000 has been put to the number of refugees to be accepted this year. For Syrian refugees, however, the ban is indefinite until “sufficient changes” have been made to the refugee programme.
Protestors have been decrying Trump’s directives, which they say smack of intolerance towards Muslims. Judges in US federal and state courts have stayed its execution, stemming deportation of refugees, legal permanent residents as well as travellers caught in US airports… for the moment.
How have leaders from other countries responded?
1. Australia – Prime Minister Malcolm Turnbull
Image from Wikimedia Commons user Вени Марковски.
Following the release of the executive order, the Australian Prime Minister Malcolm Turnbull had a phone conversation with President Trump last Saturday (Jan 28). He sought confirmation that a refugee deal struck between Australia and the previous US president, Mr Barack Obama, remains valid. The latter had promised that US would take in 1,250 refugees from an Australian detention centre.
Mr Trump was unhappy about this matter. Senior US officials revealed that he called the agreement “the worst deal ever”. And on Thursday (Feb 2), the president expressed on Twitter that he will “study this dumb deal”.
Regardless, a special provision in the executive order has allowed for exceptions, such as a “pre-existing international agreement”. This means the Australia deal could – or should, really – be honoured. Beyond stating that he believed the resettlement deal remains in place, Mr Turnbull made no further comments about the call. Such conversations, he deemed, are “conducted candidly, frankly, privately”.
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2. United Arab Emirates – Minister of Foreign Affairs and International Cooperation Abdullah bin Zayed al-Nahyan
Image from Flickr user Bahrain Ministry of Foreign Affairs.
Foreign Minister Abdullah bin Zayed al-Nahyan of the United Arab Emirates defended the ban on Wednesday (Feb 1), saying that it is not Islamophobic and does not target any one religion. Muslims and Muslim countries were not included in the ban, he noted, and also found it “important” to “put into consideration this point” that the ban is temporary.
Mr Abdullah described the situation as such: Mr Trump’s order is an “American sovereign decision”, meaning it is the US’ prerogative to handle its immigration policies as it sees fit. Conversely, affected countries do have “structural problems” that first need addressing. Dealing with an immigration ban directed at them is secondary. However, Mr Abdullah did not elaborate what are those “structural problems”.
In short, the Foreign Minister lent credence to US administration’s stand that Mr Trump’s order was not meant to be anti-Muslim.
3. The Philippines – President Rodrigo Duterte
Image from Wikimedia Commons user PCOO EDP.
President Duterte has chosen to mind his own business and it appeared to be a matter of professional courtesy to him. During a media briefing on Monday (Jan 30), he said that the US president had been respectful of the way he handled his war on drugs. Therefore, he would reciprocate by responding in like manner regarding the controversial executive order. In the president’s own words in Tagalog, he “will not interfere”.
In fact, Mr Duterte told overstaying Filipinos to “get out” and get back to the Philippines. Though the country is not on the ban list, there are citizens illegally staying in America. These people could be affected once US authorities start clamping down on illegal immigrants. The special envoy to the U.S. Babe Romualdez said in an interview on Tuesday (Jan 31) that a list held by the US Department of Homeland Security has indicated there are “about 310,000 Filipinos up for deportation”.
“Because if you are caught and you get deported, I will not lift a finger. You know that it is a violation of the law,” Mr Duterte said.
4. Indonesia – Minister of Foreign Affairs Retno Marsudi
Image from Flickr user Utenriksdepartementet UD.
Indonesian Foreign Minister Retno Marsudi has expressed “deep regrets about the policy” in a social media message to Reuters on Sunday (Jan 29), when asked for her opinion about the executive order.
Indonesia has the world’s largest Muslim population but is not on the ban list. On Monday (Jan 30), Indonesian President Joko Widodo told his citizens not to worry, assuring them that there is “no direct impact on Indonesia”.
Similarly, Ms Retno said that Indonesians seeking visas to go the United States had not faced any problems so far. Still, for the “hundreds of thousands” of Indonesians already in America, she has instructed Indonesian representatives in Washington, Chicago, Houston, Los Angeles, New York and San Francisco to open 24-hour hotline services in case of any fallout arising from this situation.
5. Turkey – Deputy Prime Minister Numan Kurtulmuş
Image from Vikipedia user Ak Party.
Deputy Prime Minister Numan Kurtulmuş has condemned the ban in an interview with Turkish daily Habertürk on Tuesday (Jan 31). He attributed Mr Trump’s move to “rising Islamophobia, xenophobia and anti-immigrant feelings”. Coming from America as a place where “different ethnic and religious groups are able to co-exist”, the decision to restrict entry of nationals from the seven majority-Muslim countries was “very offensive”, he said. He went on to call the ban a “discriminative decision”, hoping for its correction.
Turkey considers itself a champion against anti-Muslim sentiments. It has absorbed around 2.7 million Syrian refugees, victims of the near six-year war between Syrian president Bashar al-Assad and rebels.
Mr Kurtulmus reasoned that “no national from a certain country can be categorically deemed as bad”. In fact, behaviours of “Islamophobia and xenophobia” work in tandem with terror groups like DAESH [Islamic State of Iraq and the Levant], both “poisoning the lives of 1.7 billion Muslims”. The cooperation of effective anti-terror forces is the way to fight terrorism, he said.
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