US President Donald Trump’s order banning arrivals from several Muslim-majority countries has come into effect, with some airlines already stopping would-be passengers from flying to the United States.
In a move that sparked widespread international criticism, 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.
In some of the countries affected by the restrictions, would-be travellers preparing family visits, work trips or seeking to escape war reported chaotic disruption to their plans, with some saying they had been humiliated.
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Some were already in the air when Trump signed the measure and were detained on arrival, according to The New York Times.
In Egypt, five Iraqi nationals and one Yemeni were prohibited from boarding an Egypt Air flight that was bound to New York from Cairo’s international airport on Saturday morning.
The six passengers, who were headed for John F. Kennedy International Airport, were reportedly prevented from boarding despite holding valid immigration visas.
In The Netherlands, the Dutch flag carrier, KLM, said it had stopped seven passengers from boarding its flights, five of whom it had been able to contact before departure. The identities of the seven, their countries of origin and destinations were not given.
“We would have liked to have had them fly with us, but it would not have made much sense because they would have been denied entry” to the US, KLM spokesman Manel Vrijenhoek told AFP news agency.
In Canada, WestJet Airlines said it turned back a passenger bound for the US on Saturday in order to comply with an executive order that prohibits people from seven Muslim-majority countries from entering the US.
WestJet spokeswoman Lauren Stewart said the airline would give full refunds to anyone affected by the US executive order. It did not say which country the passenger had come from.
In Iran’s capital, Tehran, two travel agencies told AFP they had been instructed by Etihad Airways, Emirates and Turkish Airlines not to sell US tickets or allow Iranians holding American visas to board US-bound flights.
Qatar Airways on Saturday issued a travel alert on their official website, saying nationals of the seven countries may travel to the US “only if they are in possession of a permanent resident card [green card] or any of the below visas,” listing foreign government, United Nations, international organisation and NATO visas.
Across the Middle East, people reacted with fury, saying the travel curbs were insulting and discriminatory.
“It’s not right to portray huge groups of Arabs and Muslims as possible terrorists,” Najeeb Haidari, a Yemeni American security manager in Yemen, told Reuters news agency.
“This is a stupid, terrible decision which will hurt the American people more than us or anybody else, because it shows that this president can’t manage people, politics or global relationships.”
In Baghdad, Bayan Adil, a doctor working in the Iraqi Health Ministry who applied for a US visa to attend a medical seminar, said Iraqi academics should visit Europe instead of the US, where they were no longer welcome.
“Trump’s decision is, unfortunately, a humiliating insult not only for us as academics, but for all Iraqis,” she told Reuters.
Iran also slammed the “insulting” measure and said it would stop US citizens entering the country in retaliation to Washington’s visa ban, calling it an “open affront against the Muslim world and the Iranian nation”.