Trump expected to order temporary ban on refugees

US President Donald Trump. (Reuters)
Updated 25 January 2017
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Trump expected to order temporary ban on refugees

WASHINGTON: US President Donald Trump is expected to sign executive orders starting on Wednesday that include a temporary ban on most refugees and a suspension of visas for citizens of Syria and six other Middle Eastern and African countries, say congressional aides and immigration experts briefed on the matter.
Trump, who tweeted that a “big day” was planned on national security on Wednesday, is expected to ban for several months the entry of refugees into the United States, except for religious minorities escaping persecution, until more aggressive vetting is in place.
Another order will block visas being issued to anyone from Syria, Iraq, Iran, Libya, Somalia, Sudan and Yemen, said the aides and experts, who asked not to be identified.
In his tweet late on Tuesday, Trump said: “Big day planned on NATIONAL SECURITY tomorrow. Among many other things, we will build the wall!”
The border security measures probably include directing the construction of a border wall with Mexico and other actions to cut the number of illegal immigrants living in the United States.
The sources say the first of the orders will be signed on Wednesday. With Trump considering measures to tighten border security, he could turn his attention to the refugee issue later this week.
Stephen Legomsky, who was chief counsel at US Citizenship and Immigration Services in the Obama administration, said the president had the authority to limit refugee admissions and the issuance of visas to specific countries if the administration determined it was in the public’s interest.
“From a legal standpoint, it would be exactly within his legal rights,” said Legomsky, a professor at Washington University School of Law in St. Louis. “But from a policy standpoint, it would be terrible idea because there is such an urgent humanitarian need right now for refugees.”
The Republican president, who took office last Friday, was expected to sign the first of the orders at the Department of Homeland Security, whose responsibilities include immigration and border security.
On the campaign trail, Trump initially proposed a temporary ban on Muslims entering the United States, which he said would protect Americans from jihadist attacks.
Both Trump and his nominee for attorney general, Senator Jeff Sessions, have since said they would focus the restrictions on countries whose migrants could pose a threat, rather than a ban on those of a specific religion.
Many Trump supporters decried former President Barack Obama’s decision to increase the number of Syrian refugees admitted to the United States over fears that those fleeing the country’s civil war would carry out attacks.

Legal challenges possible
Detractors could launch legal challenges if all the countries subject to the ban are Muslim-majority nations, said immigration expert Hiroshi Motomura at UCLA School of Law.
Legal arguments could claim the executive orders discriminate against a particular religion, which would be unconstitutional, he said.
“His comments during the campaign and a number of people on his team focused very much on religion as the target,” Motomura said.
To block entry from the designated countries, Trump is likely to tell the State Department to stop issuing visas to people from those nations, according to sources familiar with the visa process. He could also instruct US Customs and Border Protection to stop any current visa holders from those countries from entering the United States.
White House spokesman Sean Spicer said on Tuesday the State and Homeland Security Departments would work on the vetting process once Trump’s nominee to head the State Department, Rex Tillerson, is installed.
Other measures may include directing all agencies to finish work on a biometric identification system for non-citizens entering and exiting the United States and a crackdown on immigrants fraudulently receiving government benefits, according to the congressional aides and immigration experts.
To restrict illegal immigration, Trump has promised to build a wall on the US-Mexico border and to deport illegal migrants living inside the United States.
Trump is also expected to take part in a ceremony installing his new secretary of homeland security, retired Marine General John Kelly, on Wednesday.

Australia deal under threat
Trump’s executive order threatens a refugee resettlement deal with Australia signed late last year, and could leave more than 1,000 asylum seekers in limbo.
The US agreed to resettle an unspecified number of refugees being held in Papua New Guinea (PNG) and the tiny South Pacific island nation of Nauru on Australia’s behalf, under a deal to be administered by the UN refugee agency.
“Any substantial delay in the relocation of refugees...would be highly concerning from a humanitarian perspective,” Catherine Stubberfield, a spokeswoman of the UN High Commissioner for Refugees, told Reuters by e-mail.
“These men, women and children can no longer afford to wait.”
The deal followed agreement by Australia in September to join a US-led program to resettle refugees from Guatemala, Honduras and El Salvador as part of its annual intake.
Australia’s tough border security laws mandate that asylum seekers intercepted trying to reach the country by boat go for processing to detention camps on PNG’s Manus island and Nauru.
Australia does not provide information on the nationalities of those held, but around a third of the 1,161 detainees were from countries covered by the executive orders, lawyers and refugee workers for the asylum seekers told Reuters.
“We already didn’t have much hope the US would accept us,” Behrouz Boochani, an Iranian refugee who has spent more than three years on Manus island, told Reuters.
“If they do not take us, Australia will have to.”
A spokeswoman for Australia’s Prime Minister Malcolm Turnbull declined to comment.


UN: Threat to Idlib civilians remains high

Kurd demonstrators stage a protest rally in Syria’s western Afrin region bordering Turkey. (AFP)
Updated 20 September 2018
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UN: Threat to Idlib civilians remains high

  • Egeland: Russia, Turkey ‘still working out deal on demilitarized buffer zone’
  • Russia stressed it would continue operating against fighters it identifies as terrorists

The deal to avoid a Syrian regime offensive on Idlib province is still being worked out by Russia and Turkey, the UN said on Thursday, stressing that the threat to civilians remained high.

“This is not a peace deal. It is an aversion of (a) whole-scale-war deal,” the head of the UN Humanitarian Taskforce for Syria, Jan Egeland, said in Geneva.

Syrian regime ally Russia and rebel supporter Turkey reached an agreement to create a demilitarized buffer zone in Idlib, Syria’s last opposition bastion, where half of its 3 million residents have been displaced from areas retaken by Syrian forces.

While briefing the task force about the pact on Thursday, Russian and Turkish envoys made clear they “are still working... on the details,” Egeland said.

He expressed hope it was an indication that “the big war was averted” in Idlib, although Russia stressed it would continue operating against fighters it identifies as terrorists.

“I see a great potential for a lot of fighting,” Egeland said. 

“We are concerned for the civilians in these areas, so it is not over.”

The UN has repeatedly warned that a full-scale assault on Idlib could trigger the bloodiest episode of Syria’s seven-year war, which has killed more than 360,000 people and displaced millions.

Despite the ongoing concerns, Egeland said he was “relieved” for now.

“The outcome here was the least bad of (the) realistic solutions,” he said.

The leader of Lebanon’s Hezbollah militia has welcomed the Russian-Turkey agreement agreement signed in Sochi, calling it a “step on the road to making a political solution possible.”

Hassan Nasrallah said his group may reduce the number of its fighters in Syria because of an easing of the conflict, particularly after the recent agreement.  

It “will take Syria in the next weeks and months to a new phase,” Nasrallah said in a televised speech to supporters. 

He said the deal’s success will depend whether it’s properly implemented. “We will remain there even after the Idlib accord,” Nasrallah said.

“We will stay until further notice,” he stressed.

On Thursday, Nasrallah said Hezbollah had acquired “precision missiles” despite extensive efforts by Israel to prevent the movement developing this capability.

“It has been done. The resistance now owns precision missiles” as part of its weaponry, Nasrallah said in a televised address.

“Attempts in Syria to block the way toward this (missile) capability” have failed, Nasrallah said.

“If Israel imposes a war on Lebanon, it will face a fate that it never would have expected.”

Israel has fought several conflicts against Hezbollah, the last in 2006.

The Israeli military believes Hezbollah has between 100,000 and 120,000 short-range missiles and rockets, as well as several hundred longer-range missiles.