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Trump’s travel ban strands thousands, disrupts lives

TEHRAN: Muslims from seven countries were barred Saturday from flying to the US and others detained there after President Donald Trump froze arrivals, with one man saying his life has been “destroyed”.

Iran, which saw many of its citizens stranded in European and Middle Eastern airports, denounced the “insulting” ban and said it would reciprocate.

Trump on Friday signed a sweeping executive order to suspend the arrival of refugees and impose tough new controls on travellers from Iran, Iraq, Libya, Somalia, Syria and Yemen. His move sparked widespread international criticism and personal heartache.

“Donald Trump destroyed my life,” Iraqi Fuad Sharef, 51, told AFP.

He had been in transit in Cairo with his wife and two children when officials told them they could not board an EgyptAir flight to New York’s John F Kennedy airport.

“I had sold my house, my car, my furniture. I resigned from work and so did my wife.

I took my children out of school” to resettle in Nashville, Tennessee under a special immigrant visa, he said.

A pharmaceutical industry manager who had previously worked for an NGO subcontracted by the US aid agency, Sharif and his family were put on a flight back to Iraq.

In Tehran, an Iranian studying in California said the new restrictions would affect her studies.

“I had a ticket for Turkish Airlines on February 4, but it has been cancelled,” the girl, who did not wish to be identified, told AFP.

Several other Iranians hoping to fly from Europe were also told they could not board US-bound flights, including an elderly couple stranded for the night in Vienna.

Airlines said they had no choice but to respect Trump’s executive order and deny citizens from the seven Muslim-majority countries from travelling to the US.

The New York Times reported that two Iraqi refugees with valid visas were detained late Friday at JFK airport just hours after Trump signed the order.

On Saturday, the American Civil Liberties Union and other advocacy groups filed a legal challenge to Trump’s order, and asked for their suit to be considered a class action.

One of those held, Hameed Khalid Darweesh, who has worked for the US government in Iraq for 10 years, was later released.

He told reporters “America is the greatest nation, the greatest people in the world”.

But 11 others remain detained at JFK, according to Democratic congressman Jerrold Nadler, who went there to press for the release of the first two.

The United Nations urged Trump to continue his country’s “long tradition” of welcoming refugees and to ensure their equal treatment, regardless of race, nationality or religion.

UN spokesman Stephane Dujarric said the world body hopes that Trump’s decision to ban refugees is a temporary measure and that they will again be given protection, Trump’s decree – which he says aims to make America safe from “radical Islamic terrorists” – specifically says no visas will be issued for 90 days to migrants or visitors from the seven Muslim states.

It also bars Syrian refugees indefinitely, or until Trump himself decides that they no longer pose a threat.

His decree suspends the entire US refugee resettlement programme for at least 120 days while tough new vetting rules are established. — AFP/NST

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