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Swiss foreign minister Trump immigration order ‘goes in wrong direction’

The new order to restrict people from seven Muslim-majority sparked sparked confusion, anger and protests at US airports, after immigrants and refugees were kept off flights and left stranded in airports

(Keystone)

United States President Donald Trump's new travel ban on seven Muslim-majority countries is discriminatory and contrary to fundamental rights, warns Swiss Foreign Minister Didier Burkhalter.

Trump signed an order on Friday suspending the entry of people from Iran, Iraq, Libya, Somalia, Sudan, Syria and Yemen for at least 90 days. He said this would help safeguard the US from terrorists.

The travel curbs took effect immediately, wreaking havoc and confusion for would-be travellers with passports from the seven countries.

In a statement on Sunday, Burkhalter said Trump’s order raised numerous practical questions, especially for dual-nationals living in Switzerland who may be affected.

“We are in contact with the US authorities to get as clear information as possible on modalities planned and reserve the right to any measures that defend the rights of Swiss citizens concerned,” said the Swiss foreign minister.

Burkhalter said Switzerland was also committed to combat terrorism, however, any measures taken ‘must respect fundamental rights and international law’.

“We are always opposed to discrimination of individuals due to their religion or country of origin,” he said. “In this sense, the executive order taken by the US clearly goes in the wrong direction.”

With respect to refugees, the Geneva Conventions involve every country welcoming victims of war for humanitarian reasons, he said, adding that it was contrary to the treaties to stop people seeking refuge who had fled Syria, for example.

Trump's executive order plunged America's immigration system into chaos, with legal US residents being turned away at airports, and drew criticism from Western allies including France, Germany and Britain. On Sunday, Prime Minister Theresa May said Britain did not agree with Trump's curbs on immigration after facing criticism from lawmakers in her own party for not condemning his executive order when initially questioned.

Swiss ambassador to Tehran

On Sunday, Iran summoned Switzerland’s ambassador to Tehran, Giulio Haas, to protest against the executive order signed by Trump that affects people from Iran and six other Muslim nations.

A note handed to the Swiss, who represents US interests in Iran because Washington and Tehran have no diplomatic ties, said Trump's executive order "was based on false and discriminatory pretexts and (went) against human rights conventions", state news agency IRNA reported.

The US ban will make it virtually impossible for relatives and friends of an estimated one million Iranian-Americans to visit the US.

The US and Iran have not had formal diplomatic relations since April 1980, when President Jimmy Carter cut ties during the Iran hostage crisis. American interests in Iran are represented by the Swiss Embassy in Tehran.

Iran said on Saturday it would stop US citizens entering the country in retaliation to Washington's visa ban. But on Sunday Iran’s foreign minister said Americans who already hold Iranian visas can enter the country, even though Tehran has vowed to respond in kind to the US ban.

"Unlike the US, our decision is not retroactive. All with valid Iranian visa will be gladly welcomed," Mohammad Javad Zarif said on Twitter.

The Iraqi government itself has so far declined to comment on the executive order. 

swissinfo.ch/sb

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