Middle East Travellers Rush To Take Advantage Of Trump Setback

Channels Television  
Updated February 4, 2017

immigrantCitizens of seven mainly Muslim countries who were banned from the United States by President Donald Trump can resume boarding U.S.-bound flights, the U.S. government said on Saturday, after a Seattle judge blocked his executive order.

The ruling gave hope to many travellers and sent some scrambling for tickets, worried that the newly opened window might not last long. Trump denounced the judge on Twitter and said the decision would be quashed.

“The opinion of this so-called judge, which essentially takes law-enforcement away from our country, is ridiculous and will be overturned!” the president said.

The travel ban, which Trump says is needed to protect the United States against Islamist militants, has sparked travel chaos around the world and condemnation by rights groups who have called it racist and discriminatory.

“Interesting that certain Middle-Eastern countries agree with the ban. They know if certain people are allowed in it’s death & destruction!” Trump tweeted. “When a country is no longer able to say who can, and who cannot, come in & out, especially for reasons of safety & security – big trouble!”

In the wake of Friday’s ruling, Qatar Airways was the first to say it would allow passengers from Iran, Iraq, Libya, Somalia, Sudan, Syria and Yemen to resume flying to U.S. cities if they had valid documents.

Fellow Gulf carriers Etihad and Emirates said they would do the same, as did others including British Airways, Air France, Spain’s Iberia and Germany’s Lufthansa.

“I am very happy that we are going to travel today. Finally, we made it,” said Fuad Sharef, an Iraqi with an immigration visa who was prevented along with his family from boarding a flight to New York a week ago.

“We were right, we are legal. Even at that time, I was optimistic. I was sure that we were going to go. I didn’t surrender and I fought for my right and other people’s right,” he told Reuters.

The family was due to fly on Turkish Airlines later on Saturday from Erbil, the capital of the Kurdish region of northern Iraq, to Istanbul and then to New York, before starting a new life in Nashville, Tennessee.

Officials in Lebanon and Jordan, however, said they had received no new instructions regarding the Jan. 27 travel ban.

A spokeswoman for budget airline Norwegian, which operates transatlantic flights including from London and Oslo, said the situation was “still very unclear”.