New US travel restrictions are still ‘Muslim ban’: rights groups

This file photo taken on June 29, 2017 shows people taking part in a rally to protest restrictive guidelines issued by the US on who qualifies as a close familial relationship under the Supreme Court order on the Muslim and refugee ban at Union Square in New York. (AFP / EDUARDO MUNOZ ALVAREZ)
Updated 25 September 2017
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New US travel restrictions are still ‘Muslim ban’: rights groups

WASHINGTON: US rights groups on Monday blasted the new, open-ended version of President Donald Trump’s travel restrictions as a masked Muslim ban and pledged to keep fighting it in courts.
Despite the removal of Sudan from the expiring 90-day ban on six mainly-Muslim countries, and the addition of Chad, Venezuela and North Korea for tight restrictions or bans, activists and legal experts said Trump’s intent remained the same, to sharply cut off the flow of Muslim visitors and immigrants into the United States.
“This ban is not any better than the previous one,” said Zahra Billoo of the Council on American-Islamic Relations.
“The fact that Trump has added North Korea — with few visitors to the US — and a few government officials from Venezuela doesn’t obfuscate the real fact that the administration’s order is still a Muslim ban,” said Anthony Romero, executive director of the American Civil Liberties Union.
“President Trump’s original sin of targeting Muslims cannot be cured by throwing other countries onto his enemies list.”
Late Sunday the White House issued a new executive order to replace the expiring 90-day temporary ban on travelers from Sudan, Syria, Yemen, Iran, Somalia and Libya.
The ban, which Trump has been fighting to put in place since days after he became president in January, has been repeatedly delayed and watered down in a series of court challenges and appeals.
At the end of June, the Supreme Court allowed it finally to be implemented, with restrictions, together with a 120-day ban on refugees.
The new order Sunday, which has no expiration date, targeted eight countries but was less uniform.
North Korea, Chad, Syria, Yemen, and Libya face full bans, until they can improve their information collection on their own citizens and boost cooperation with US security authorities, who say the main target is to prevent potential terrorists from entering the country.
For Iran, an exception was left for students and exchange visitors. For Somalia, new immigrants are blocked but business, official and personal temporary visitors will be allowed, though subject to tougher vetting.
With Venezuela, only officials from certain key ministries and government agencies, and their families, are banned.
In Caracas, the foreign ministry called the US action “psychological terrorism” aimed at bringing down Venezuela’s leftist government.
The original ban is due to be heard at the Supreme Court on October 10, focusing in part on whether Muslims were targeted from the beginning.
The new order could shape the way the issue is addressed, possibly even mooting the case.
“Religion, or the religious origin of individuals or nations, was not a factor,” a senior government official told reporters on Sunday.
“The inclusion of those countries, Venezuela and North Korea, was about the fact that those governments are simply not compliant with our basic security requirements.”
But critics called that “window dressing.” One noted there were only eight visitors last year from North Korea, which does not have diplomatic relations with the United States.
Adding Chad, North Korea and Venezuelan government officials “does little to undercut the argument that the government is imposing a ban based on religion,” said Carl Tobias of the University of Richmond School of Law.
In addition, lawyers say Trump has over-extended his executive powers on placing limits on immigration.
“He’s basically rewriting the immigration law, entirely,” said Justin Cox, an attorney at the National Immigration Law Center and one of the lawyers making the arguments against the travel ban at the Supreme Court.
“If he can indefinitely ban people from these countries, he can indefinitely ban guest workers, he can indefinitely ban Mexicans, do basically whatever he wants,” Cox said.


Oxfam told to do more to tackle sexual misconduct and abuse

Updated 5 min 43 sec ago
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Oxfam told to do more to tackle sexual misconduct and abuse

  • Many workers said they had faced entrenched elitism, sexism and racism, while problem staff members were often not held accountable for their actions

LONDON (Thomson Reuters Foundation): Bullying and elitism within global aid charity Oxfam have created “toxic” work environments and enabled sexual harassment by staff, an independent commission has found.
Many workers said they had faced entrenched elitism, sexism and racism, while problem staff members were often not held accountable for their actions, found the interim report released this week.
“There is still a lot to do in terms of building trust within the organization,” Shannon Mouillesseaux, one of the commissioners, told the Thomson Reuters Foundation.
Oxfam said it was making changes to clamp down on misconduct and would act on the report’s recommendations.
“It is painfully clear that Oxfam is not immune from sexual and other forms of abuse that stem from the abuse of power,” Winnie Byanyima, Oxfam’s international executive director, said in a statement.
“To those who have experienced such unacceptable behavior: we are sorry, I am sorry, and we will follow up on any cases passed to us by the Commission as a matter of urgency.”
Oxfam was embroiled in a scandal when it emerged last February that its staff used prostitutes during a relief mission in Haiti, sparking a wider scandal over sexual harassment and abuse in the charity sector.
It appointed the independent commission to review the charity’s practices and culture in response to the Haiti revelations and is also conducting its own action plan to improve its culture and safeguarding.
The commission said Oxfam was not the only charity to face issues over sexual harassment and other misconduct, but its investigation had revealed significant problems remained.
Workers described elitist behavior and bullying in many offices, while “drastic inconsistencies” in handling safeguarding issues meant complaints were not always properly acted on, it said.
Former victims and whistleblowers said they had faced a lack of accountability when raising complaints, with some saying they had been effectively pushed out of the organization.
The commission said work was needed to build trust with staff and recommended changes including action to create a single unified safeguarding system and to diversify the charity’s leadership.
Sexual misconduct claims at Oxfam have sharply risen since the Haiti scandal, reaching 155 in the 2017-18 financial year compared to 87 in the year previously. (Reporting by Sonia Elks @soniaelks; Editing by Claire Cozens. Please credit the Thomson Reuters Foundation, the charitable arm of Thomson Reuters, that covers humanitarian news, women’s and LGBT+ rights, human trafficking, property rights, and climate change. Visit http://news.trust.org)