monday, 25 september of 2017

Donald Trump announces new US travel restrictions

Donald Trump is to impose broad new travel restrictions on eight countries, denying all North Koreans and Syrians entry to the US as he introduces an alternative to his controversial ban on travellers from six Muslim-majority nations.

Following an evaluation of global vetting procedures, the White House on Sunday unveiled tailored restrictions for eight countries that were nonetheless far-reaching and condemned by civil rights groups as discriminatory.

The move was Mr Trump’s latest attempt to fulfil a campaign pledge to tighten America’s borders and capped a weekend when he was accused of sowing division by attacking African-American football players protesting against police brutality.

In addition to the blanket bans for North Korea and Syria, nationals of five other countries — Libya, Chad, Somalia, Iran and Yemen — will have multiple categories of work, study and holiday visas suspended. Venezuela is also targeted but the restrictions there apply only to a group of government officials.

“[We] are taking action today to protect the safety and security of the American people by establishing a minimum security baseline for entry into the United States,” Mr Trump said in a statement. “We cannot afford to continue the failed policies of the past, which present an unacceptable danger to our country.”

Civil rights activists condemned Mr Trump’s latest move.

“Adding two non-majority Muslim countries [North Korea and Venezuela] doesn’t change the math or the intent of Trump’s new Muslim ban?.?.?.?This policy continues to be xenophobic and unconstitutional,” said Zahra Billoo of the Council on American-Islamic Relations.

Vanita Gupta, president of The Leadership Conference on Civil and Human Rights, said: “No matter how many times the administration tries to repackage and sell it, President Trump’s Muslim travel ban remains hateful, discriminatory, and xenophobic. The addition of North Korea and Venezuela doesn’t make this any less of a Muslim ban.”

The White House said the new restrictions would come into force on October 18, creating for the first time in US history “minimum requirements for international co-operation to support visa and immigration vetting” for people seeking to enter the US.

Mr Trump’s measures ban permanent emigration to the US from Chad, Iran, Libya, Yemen and Somalia and only allow citizens of those countries to travel to the US as short-stay non-immigrants in a prescribed set of visa categories.

The White House said the new requirements were based on “accepted international norms, best practices and expert determinations regarding the minimum information the United States needs to validate traveller identities, prevent fraud and ensure individuals do not represent a national security or public-safety threat”.

US officials said that some countries, under American pressure, had improved their procedures, including by introducing more secure passports with embedded electronic chips, while others had refused. “Some countries didn’t even have the courtesy to say ‘go fly a kite’,” said Miles Taylor, counsellor to the US secretary of homeland security.

For Venezuelans the move only restricts travel by government officials whom the Trump administration said it blamed for failing to share public safety and terrorism-related information on prospective travellers.

Elaine Duke, acting secretary of homeland security, sent the White House a report on September 15 identifying the countries that do not meet US standards for verifying travellers’ identity and background.

Her recommendations came after her department spent 20 days this spring evaluating the vetting procedures used by every country and an additional 50 days pushing several countries to institute reforms.

Sudan was the only country subject to Mr Trump’s now defunct six-country travel ban to be dropped from the new restrictions. The Trump administration found that Iraq did not meet the US’s basic vetting requirements but decided not to subject it to the new restrictions because of the “close co-operative relationship” between the two countries.

Federal courts froze implementation of Mr Trump’s initial travel order, which was hastily introduced in his first week in the White House. On Friday Mr Taylor emphasised the “extensive and methodical” process that led to the new iteration.

(Published by Financial Times - September 25, 2017)

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