Australia seeks deal on Trump visa ban

Australian officials are seeking to strike a deal with the United States to secure preferential treatment for dual nationals who hail from so-called terror-source nations.

Canada and the UK have struck agreements with the Trump administration after the US president issued an executive order banning the US from taking in people from seven Muslim-majority countries: Iran, Iraq, Syria, Sudan, Libya, Yemen and Somalia.

The US Department of Homeland Security told reporters on the weekend 109 people who were in transit on planes had been denied entry and 173 had not been allowed to board their planes overseas.

Prime Minister Malcolm Turnbull told reporters in Canberra on Monday if individual cases arose Australia would take it up with US authorities.

However, he said he did not want to become a commentator on US domestic policies.

Immediately after the press conference, Labor foreign affairs spokeswoman Penny Wong wrote to Foreign Minister Julie Bishop seeking advice on what action had been taken on behalf of dual nationals impacted by the Trump decision.

Two hours after Mr Turnbull’s comments, Ms Bishop issued a brief statement saying: “I have directed our officials in Washington DC to work with US officials to ensure any preferential treatment extended to any other country in relation to travel and entry to the United States is extended to Australia.”

Australian Immigration

The Department of Foreign Affairs and Trade says it has not had any consular assistance requests from Australians unable to board aircraft.

The International Refugee Assistance Project said a 17-year-old orphan from Afghanistan, whose entire family was killed by a land mine in Kabul, was not allowed on his flight home to the US.

Media reports have also told of American university students being stopped from boarding aircraft.

The executive order bars people from the seven nations from entering the US for the next 90 days and suspends the admission of all refugees for 120 days.

There are also critics from within Mr Trump’s own Republican party.

Chairman of the US Senate committee on armed services and former presidential candidate John McCain said in a statement the confusion at American airports showed the order was “not properly vetted”.

“We should not stop green-card holders from returning to the country they call home. We should not stop those who have served as interpreters for our military and diplomats from seeking refuge in the country they risked their lives to help.

“And we should not turn our backs on those refugees who have been shown through extensive vetting to pose no demonstrable threat to our nation, and who have suffered unspeakable horrors, most of them women and children.”

Senator McCain said it would also become a “self-inflicted wound in the fight against terrorism”.

Counter-terrorism expert and Labor MP Dr Anne Aly said if the decision was about national security, it targeted the wrong countries.

The men involved in the September 11 attacks on the US came from Egypt, Lebanon, Saudi Arabia and the United Arab Emirates.

Mr Turnbull also confirmed he did not discuss the Trans-Pacific Partnership trade deal with Mr Trump in Sunday’s 25-minute phone call, as the issue had been canvassed in a previous call.

Mr Trump last week signed an executive order to pull the US out of the 12-country agreement.

Labor leader Bill Shorten said while the US was entitled to go about its business without interference from Australia, and vice versa, there were some issues “where silence will be interpreted as agreement”.

“For that reason, I need to say Mr Trump’s ban on refugees based upon their religion or country is appalling and ought to be ended as soon as possible,” Mr Shorten said in a statement on Monday.

“I urge Malcolm Turnbull to reconsider what our nation’s position ought to be and rethink what he should be saying on our behalf. It’s time for leadership.”

Ai Group chief Innes Willox told AAP there would be a lot of uncertainty in the early days of the Trump policy and Australian business people should get advice on their visa status.

“The breadth of the US visa ban could catch some people unawares as it applies to country of birth and not what passport you hold,” Mr Willox said.

“Many regular travellers may well have visas stamped in their passports from the banned countries and this could well impact on their eligibility to enter the US or at least make arrival difficult.

“The visa rules will add to the complexity of doing business in the US, but that said, restrictions on visas to many countries are nothing new and part of the risk of doing business.” Source: news

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