A popular image reads, ‘We Gave You Hummus, let us in!’
The President of the United States of America, Donald Trump, signed an Executive Order placing restrictions on immigration. While the language of the Order is vague, the consequences have been felt by several individuals – specifically those with valid US visas present in countries on the ‘banned list’.
Lawsuits are aplenty, decisions have been flying around left, right and center, but not many people know the implications of what the Order really does. Catharsis investigates.
The Order bans entry from seven Muslim-majority countries: Iran, Iraq, Libya, Somalia, Sudan, Syria and Yemen. This ban will be for a period of 90 days, and perhaps caused the most panic. Valid US citizens were halted at airports on their return flights home, not allowed to board aircrafts taking them back ‘home’. Interestingly enough, the Department of Homeland Security possesses the power and discretion to ban more countries at any point of time.
Prioritized refugee claims: A contentious decision with respect to America’s international legal obligations, America will prioritize refugee claims which are presented as the result of religious persecution. This Order extends insofar as the applicant in question belongs to a minority religion within their country.
A reduced refugee intake: Again, a contentious decision, America’s refugee intake will decrease drastically from 110,000 to 50,000.
Refugees persecuted for reasons other than religion have a status that keeps them in limbo, since no exception applies to them.
Americans have reacted in a rather divisive manner, a striking foreshadowing of what Trump’s Presidency may pan out to be. While supporters laud the move as a representation of a candidate finally fulfilling campaign promises, protests are wide-spread. Protests are centered around America’s usual benevolence and generosity – as a land of dreams for many, as well as the culture of xenophobia the Order succeeds in creating.
Debate has ensued on whether the ban a Muslim-ban, possibly violating several humanitarian obligations, such as America’s obligation toward non-discrimination with respect to human rights.
Trump claims that Kuwait bans an entry visa for 5-Muslim majority countries, but Kuwait itself denies such a claim. This story is a particularly interesting one to follow, in the context of past relations between the two nations. Kuwait’s security and sovereignty has been a prime consideration for the United States, particularly in 1990, when Iraq invaded the country. Furthermore, the ties between Kuwait and America dictates a large part of co-operation between the Gulf Cooperation Council, a strategic ally to the nation.
Iran plans to take ‘retaliatory measures’, banning entry to American citizens. Strangely enough, the country managed to keep the ban for fewer than 10 days, graciously allowing US wrestlers to enter the country for competition.
Canada reiterated its commitment to refugees, and Justin Trudeau, Prime Minister, utilized the opportunity to promote Canada’s nice-guy image, tweeting #WelcometoCanada
Pakistan was perhaps the most outspoken. As a Muslim-majority nation, not on Trump’s list, Pakistan issued statements about how the ban would increase the victims of terrorism and represented a black mark on the fight against terror.
The far-right, Trump’s ideological identification, welcomed the ban. Nigel Farage, Geert Wilders, were just a few leaders expressing their pleasure about the order. Mr. Wilders stated that ‘Islam and freedom are incompatible’, a telling statement about misconceptions about the religion.
Trump has successfully managed to occupy headlines across most media outlets with everything he has done, and this author regrets that yet another headline is being made by the President. America has managed to find itself in a position that is rather unique. It has manufactured a situation of statelessness by rejecting people at borders, leaving people fleeing persecution with no place to go.
While outrage remains, what will be interesting to follow is the outcome on the far-right. 2016 witnessed several instances of their rise, and only time will tell whether the stateless senselessness prevails over humanitarian considerations and international co-operation.