An emergency legal challenge to Australia’s contentious ban on citizens returning from Covid-struck India failed Monday, dashing stranded travellers’ hopes of an immediate return.
Federal Justice Thomas Thawley ruled the government had not overstepped its biosecurity powers in banning Australians from returning home temporarily.
Prime Minister Scott Morrison earlier this month shut the door to all travel from India, fearing a large number of Covid-positive arrivals would overwhelm Australia’s already strained quarantine facilities.
The move stranded an estimated 9,000 Australian citizens and threatened them with large fines and jail time if they tried to dodge the ban and return on non-direct flights.
Thawley ruled that Morrison acted within the law, dashing the hopes of a 73-year-old Australian man who brought the case as he tries to return from Bangalore.
The Federal Government will ban entry to non-Nigerian passengers who visited Brazil, India, or Turkey in the last two weeks.
This was disclosed by the Chairman of the Presidential Steering Committee on COVID-19 and Secretary to the Government of the Federation, Boss Mustapha via a statement issued on Saturday.
He noted that the decision followed increasing cases of COVID-19 and fatalities in some parts of the world.
Mustapha said the travel ban does not apply to passengers who have transited through those countries, adding that the travel advisory will take effect from Tuesday while it shall be subjected to review after an initial period of four weeks.
“These precautionary measures are a necessary step to minimize the risk of a surge in COVID-19 cases introduced to Nigeria from other countries,” the statement partly read.
“Non-Nigerian passport holders and non-residents who visited Brazil, India or Turkey within days preceding travel to Nigeria, shall be denied entry into Nigeria.
“This regulation, however, does not apply to passengers who transited through these countries.
“The following measures shall apply to airlines and passengers who fail to comply with I and II(a) above: airlines shall mandatorily pay a penalty of $3,500 for each defaulting passenger.”
US President-elect Joe Biden’s spokeswoman quickly dismissed Donald Trump’s announcement Monday that a Covid-19 ban on travelers arriving from much of Europe and Brazil would be lifted, underlining the fractious transition of power.
“On the advice of our medical team, the Administration does not intend to lift these restrictions on 1/26,” tweeted Jen Psaki, Biden’s press secretary.
“In fact, we plan to strengthen public health measures around international travel in order to further mitigate the spread of COVID-19.”
“With the pandemic worsening, and more contagious variants emerging around the world, this is not the time to be lifting restrictions on international travel,” she added.
Just minutes prior to Psaki’s tweet, President Trump said he would lift the travel ban on Europe and Brazil, although travel bans for China and Iran would remain in place. “This action is the best way to continue protecting Americans from COVID-19 while enabling travel to resume safely,” he said in a statement released by the White House.
Trump had announced an initial ban on January 31, 2020 on non-American travelers entering from China to stop the spread of the coronavirus. The ban was extended to European countries on March 14, the US shutting itself off from the world as the pandemic entered full force.
Both Biden and Trump’s statements come days after the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) announced that all air passengers bound for the US will be required to test negative for Covid-19 within three days of their departure.
The test policy will take effect on January 26, and expands on a previous testing rule that targeted Britain and came into effect in December, following the emergence of a coronavirus variant believed to be more transmissible.
Some epidemiologists have warned it is likely that new, more transmissible variants are already establishing themselves in the United States, the hardest-hit country in the world by the pandemic.
Biden will be inaugurated on Wednesday, after a rocky handover of power and in the midst of an alarming surge of Covid-19 cases in the US.
Trump for months had refused to accept the outcome of the November 3 election, baselessly insisting the vote had been rigged and ignoring court rulings to the contrary, leaving the country seething with division and anger.
He denied Biden’s team access to funds and resources and still has not congratulated Biden or invited him for the traditional tea visit in the Oval Office,
Instead, Trump has remained largely out of the public eye since his supporters rampaged through Congress on January 6, triggering his historic second impeachment a week later.
Trump is also set to become the first outgoing president in 152 years not to join his successor at the inauguration ceremony.
As of Monday, the US had recorded more than 24 million cases of Covid-19, with nearly 400,000 deaths.
Belgium’s biggest airline, Lufthansa subsidiary Brussels Airlines, said Thursday it had lost 182 million euros in the first six months of 2020 because of the coronavirus crisis.
First-half revenues fell to 252 million euros, 63 percent below the same period last year. Brussels Airlines transported two thirds fewer passengers between January and June as much of the world imposed anti-virus lockdowns.
Brussels Airlines suspended all scheduled flights from 21 March, running only special flights to repatriate Belgian and German citizens, transport medical equipment to Africa, and import medical masks from China.
Commercial flying resumed on June 15 as European countries began to ease their social and economic lockdowns, but the airline’s network remains limited.
“Due to the still volatile and highly unpredictable situation worldwide, it is not possible to make forecasts for 2020 as a whole,” the company warned.
Last month the Belgian state and the German flag-carrier Lufthansa struck a deal to rescue its struggling partner.
A Belgian government loan of 290 million euros ($337 million) and a capital injection of 170 million euros from Lufthansa will cover some of the airline’s losses.
But Brussels Airlines plans to use the money for restructuring that will see it shed around a quarter of its workforce — affecting around 1,000 people.
Lufthansa, the leading European transport group, was itself handed a nine billion euro bailout last month from the German government.
“I might lose my job, my apartment, my income for quite a while,” she said.
The 29-year-old was told she might be able to apply for a humanitarian exemption, but with just two days before the funeral, there wasn’t time.
“My mother was devastated. I was the only one in the family who couldn’t attend my father’s funeral,” she told AFP.
“My brother and sister described to me how they wrote a message on a little piece of paper and placed it on his jacket. And that was something I couldn’t do,” she added, her voice cracking.
– ‘There’s no one else’ –
Yukari, who asked to be identified by her first name only, faces a similar situation.
She is half-American, half-Japanese and lives in Tokyo with her Japanese husband and their nine-year-old son.
But she doesn’t have Japanese citizenship and faces being separated from her son and husband if she travels to the United States, where her mother is battling cancer.
“I’m… (the) only immediate family that she has. There’s no one else… in the US,” she told AFP.
Her mother was diagnosed with bile duct cancer in March, and in April her doctor warned she might have just weeks to live.
Ordinarily, Yukari would have taken the first flight out, but instead, she was forced to rely on friends of the family to help her mother.
After a touch-and-go period, her mother’s health has stabilised, though the cancer has not gone away.
“I talked to her helpers, and one of them said ‘I think she’s holding on, to see you one more time.’ That was hard to hear.”
– Humanitarian exceptions? –
Elsewhere in Asia, the rules are even stricter, with countries like Mongolia effectively sealing its borders altogether. Even citizens are only able to re-enter the country on rare evacuation flights.
That has left people like Nyamtseren Erdenetsetseg and her husband Sukhbaatar Dorj, who are stuck in South Korea, with no way back and no idea when they will see their children in Mongolia again.
The couple went to South Korea in January to visit Erdenetsetseg’s mother, who lives in Seoul. They left their five children with Dorj’s mother while they were away.
But on February 23, Mongolia announced it was banning entry from South Korea, leaving the couple stranded.
They tried in vain to get a seat on an evacuation flight, and then on May 3, Dorj’s mother died suddenly.
His sister has taken in the couple’s children, who ask their parents on phone calls when they will be back.
“I don’t say anything,” Erdenetsetseg said. “I don’t want to get their hopes up for nothing.”
She has even considered allowing her Korean visa to expire instead of extending it, in the hope authorities would deport her. But doing that would mean she would be banned from South Korea in the future.
In some places, there are signs of tentative changes. China has begun relaxing travel caps for some foreign firms and is increasing the number of international flights.
And in early June, Japan’s government said foreign residents now “may be granted” humanitarian exceptions to the ban, potentially offering Yukari an opportunity to see her mother.
“I just pray that… I can go and see her one last time.”
The United States said Saturday it was stepping up its fight against the coronavirus and extending a European travel ban to include the United Kingdom and Ireland, while acknowledging that some domestic travel curbs are also being considered.
President Donald Trump has decided to “suspend all travel from the United Kingdom and Ireland” effective midnight Monday EST (0400 GMT Tuesday), Vice President Mike Pence told a White House news conference.
“Americans in the UK or Ireland can come home. Legal residents can come home,” Pence said, adding that such people would be “funneled through specific airports and processed.”
Asked about possible travel restrictions within the US, Pence said the administration was considering “a broad range of measures, but no decisions have been made yet.”
“We’re going to continue to follow the facts,” he said. “We’re going to continue to listen to the experts.”
Anger In Europe
European officials have reacted angrily to Trump’s sweeping travel ban, calling on the US for cooperation to fight the pandemic.
The original 30-day US ban on travel from the 26 countries of Europe’s Schengen border-free zone took effect on Saturday, but notably excluded Britain and Ireland.
A senior administration official said Saturday of the new limit on travel from the UK and Ireland that “I do believe it will be the same duration as the Schengen Zone.”
The administration had hoped to stop anyone from the Continent using the UK and Ireland as transit points en route to the US, the official told reporters in a background briefing, “but that is proving operationally very difficult for us.”
The original move caused widespread consternation among travelers.
Britain’s death toll from the novel coronavirus nearly doubled on Saturday, to 21.
Official figures showed the country has 1,140 confirmed cases — an increase of 342 from the day before. But a senior health official has estimated that the number of infected people is more likely to be between 5,000 and 10,000.
The Republic of Ireland — which has taken strict steps to stem the spread of the coronavirus — so far has 70 confirmed cases and one death.
He added that returnees from those countries will be quarantined for 14 days to ensure the safety of citizens.
The conference with the diplomatic community is hosted by the Minister of Foreign Affairs, Geoffrey Onyeama.
Also in attendance is the Director-General of the Nigeria Centre for Disease Control (NCDC), Mr Chikwe Ihekweazu, officials of the Nigeria immigration services and members of the diplomatic corps.
Meanwhile, US President Donald Trump announced a shock 30-day ban on travel from mainland Europe over the coronavirus pandemic.
The World Health Organization also sounded another global alarm bell on Wednesday, officially classifying the virus as a pandemic that has infected more than 124,000 people with 4,500 deaths, according to an AFP tally.
The United States and Nigeria voiced hope Tuesday that the Trump administration would soon lift onerous visa restrictions slapped on Africa’s most populous country, which said it was “blindsided” by its ally.
On a previously scheduled visit to Washington, Nigerian Foreign Minister Geoffrey Onyeama said he sought more information on President Donald Trump’s latest immigration crackdown announced last week which targeted Nigeria and five other countries.
Secretary of State Mike Pompeo, meeting Onyeama, said that Trump took action partly due to the “terrorist threat” in West Africa, where Nigeria has fought alongside the United States against Islamist extremists.
Nigeria remains a “strategic partner” but Trump restricted visas as it has “room to grow in sharing important national security information.”
“I’m optimistic that’s going to happen,” Pompeo told reporters.
Striking a diplomatic tone, Onyeama said his talks were “very gratifying” but acknowledged, with a smile, that Trump’s move caught Nigeria off-guard.
“We were somewhat blindsided by the announcement of the visa restrictions,” Onyeama said.
He said that Nigeria had already been looking to address US concerns, such as providing information on suspected terrorists and embedding electronic data into passports.
“We know, and the US officials have also confirmed, that we have been able to tick most of those boxes,” he said.
The lingering problem, he said, involved how to handle lost and stolen Nigerian passports.
He said Nigeria was putting in place a system that would make data from such passports “immediately available” to all members of Interpol, the global law enforcement body.
“We hope to have that up and running very soon,” he said. “Hopefully, once that has been achieved, we look forward to being taken off this visa restriction list.”
Trump came to office vowing to impose border restrictions and notoriously was quoted as using a vulgar epithet for African and other developing nations that send immigrants to the United States.
Unlike a controversial order days after he took office that essentially banned entry to citizens from a number of Muslim-majority countries, the latest restrictions primarily involve foreigners who seek to immigrate rather than visit.
Along with Nigeria, Trump imposed the curbs on nationals from Eritrea, Kyrgyzstan, Myanmar, Sudan and Tanzania.
Former Presidential Candidate of the Peoples Democratic Party (PDP), Atiku Abubakar is unhappy about the US Government’s decision to place Nigeria on its travel ban list.
The US Government had announced on Friday that citizens from Nigeria, Eritrea, Myanmar, and Kyrgyzstan won’t be allowed to apply for visas to immigrate to the U.S.
According to the country, its new policy is part of efforts to tighten security for countries that don’t comply with the U.S. minimum security standards or cooperate to prevent illegal immigration.
But Atiku took to Twitter on Saturday to express his displeasure with the situation while giving reasons why he believes the policy should be reconsidered for Nigeria.
One of such reasons is that he believes the ban does not take into account, the pro-American sentiments of the Nigerian public and the solidarity which previous Nigerian administrations have had with the United States.
He also asked the Trump administration to consider the pivotal role that Nigeria, in partnership with the US, played in bringing peace to Liberia – an American sphere of influence, that now enjoys democracy because “Nigerian blood and money paved the way for peace in that nation”.
A third reason according to Atiku is that Nigeria is one of the biggest trading partners of the US.
He also says Nigeria has consistently voted in support of the United States and her allies at the United Nations and other multi-lateral world bodies.
Finally, he believes that placing a ban on the entire country, rather than dealing precisely with specific elements in government which he says are to blame for the nation’s inefficiencies, is unfair.
“The current Nigerian administration may have its deficiencies and deep faults, but the Nigeria people ought not to be punished for their inefficiencies,” Atiku said.
“Once again, I call on President Trump to consider adopting measures that individually target those in government who have failed in their duties, rather than target the entire Nigerian population”.
Read Atiku’s Full Statement Below.
US Travel Ban on Nigeria: Punish Those Responsible, Not the Nigerian People
I received with sadness the policy of the government of the United States of America to place Nigeria on its travel ban list.
While I understand the reasons given by the Trump administration (the failure of the Muhammadu Buhari led administration to share information and to address issues of terrorism), the ban does not take into account the pro-American sentiments of the Nigerian public and the solidarity previous Nigerian administrations have had with the United States.
I urge the government of President Donald Trump to consider the history of US-Nigerian relationships. Nigeria was one of the few African nations that joined the US led coalition during Operation Desert Storm in 1990-1991, when the United States championed the liberation of Kuwait.
The Trump administration may also consider the pivotal role Nigeria, in partnership with the US, played in bringing peace to Liberia, an American sphere of influence, that now enjoys democracy because Nigerian blood and money paved the way for peace in that nation.
Nigeria has also consistently voted in support of the United States and her allies at the United Nations and other multi-lateral world bodies. This is even as we are perhaps the biggest trading partner that the United States has in Africa, even where we had alternatives.
Nigerians love the United States and have been a major force for the positive development of that great nation: 77 per cent of all Black doctors in the United States are Nigerians. Nigerians are also the most educated immigrant community in America Bar None.
Surely, the US stands to benefit if it allows open borders with a country like Nigeria that is able to provide skilled, hardworking and dedicated personnel in a two-way traffic.
The current Nigerian administration may have its deficiencies and deep faults, but the Nigeria people ought not to be punished for their inefficiencies.
Once again, I call on President Trump to consider adopting measures that individually target those in government who have failed in their duties, rather than target the entire Nigerian population.
US President Donald Trump had said his administration was preparing to add a “couple of countries” to the controversial list of states whose citizens are subject to travel bans or severe restrictions on entry to the United States.
“We are adding a couple of countries to it. We have to be safe. Our country has to be safe,” he said on Wednesday at the World Economic Forum in Davos, adding that the names of the new countries would be announced, “very shortly”.
The Wall Street Journal reported earlier that the administration planned to add seven countries including Nigeria, Africa’s most populous country, and others in Africa and Asia.
It said the other nations being considered for new rules were Belarus, Eritrea, Kyrgyzstan, Myanmar, Sudan and Tanzania.
These countries would not necessarily face blanket bans on US travel but could see certain types of visas curtailed, the paper said, quoting administration officials.
Some of these countries could see their nationals barred from participating in a visa lottery programme, which Trump has repeatedly railed against, saying he would prefer a skilled immigration policy along the lines of the systems in Canada or Australia.
Unlike the nations covered by the current ban, most of these new additions do not have Muslim-majority populations.
The paper added that administration officials were still debating whether to include one or two of the countries, and the new list would be announced on Monday.
Trump repeatedly promised during his election campaign to implement a complete ban on Muslims entering the US and announced his first package of travel bans and restrictions shortly after taking office in January 2017.
The move outraged critics and was struck down by a federal court which ruled it amounted to religious discrimination. The administration moved a second version of the policy in March 2017, which was struck down again for similar reasons.
But the third version of the policy was upheld by the US Supreme Court in June 2018 in a 5-4 ruling that affirmed the president had broad power to set immigration policy based on national security justifications.
The countries currently covered are Iran, Libya, Somalia, Syria, Yemen and North Korea, and political officials from Venezuela. The administration argued the inclusion of non-Muslim majority countries proved the policy was not driven by religious animus.
Speaking to reporters in Jamaica, where he is on a regional tour, Secretary of State Mike Pompeo said it was the administration’s policy “to make sure that we are getting security right, to make sure that we work with every country to have processes in place” that ensured the security of the US.
The Journal’s reporting, including the naming of seven new countries, ties in with earlier reporting by US media, including BuzzFeed News which said earlier this month it had obtained a draft presidential proclamation about the expansion, but names of the countries were left blank.
Pakistan announced Thursday it would ban former president Asif Ali Zardari from travelling abroad following allegations of money laundering, as the nation marked 11 years since his wife, prime minister Benazir Bhutto, was assassinated.
Information minister Fawad Chaudhry told reporters in Islamabad that Zardari and his sister Faryal Talpur were among 172 people involved in cases of money laundering and use of fake bank accounts.
“All the 172 names … will be added to the ECL (Exit Control List),” he said.
Zardari, co-chairman of the opposition Pakistan People’s Party and who was president from 2008 until 2013, has long been the subject of corruption allegations, and is widely known in Pakistan as “Mr. Ten Percent”.
The announcement coincided with the 11th death anniversary of his spouse and two-time former prime minister Benazir Bhutto, who was killed in a gun and suicide bomb attack during an election rally in the garrison town of Rawalpindi on December 27, 2007.
Earlier this week Chaudhry said a joint investigation team (JIT) had found evidence of how Zardari allegedly laundered money through fake bank accounts and companies.
“I hope Zardari will now take the JIT seriously,” he said Thursday, adding that his government would not spare anyone involved in plundering national wealth.
Prime Minister Imran Khan, who came to power in July, has vowed to squash rampant corruption and recover billions siphoned from the country as his government scrambles to shore up Pakistan’s deteriorating finances and fast-depleting foreign exchange reserves.
Zardari’s travel ban comes days after former prime minister Nawaz Sharif was sentenced to seven years in prison for corruption on Monday, the latest in a long string of court cases against him.
Pakistan’s Supreme Court disqualified Sharif from politics for life over graft allegations in 2017, ousting him from power. His Pakistan Muslim League-Nawaz was defeated by Khan in the July polls.
A Pakistani court established a commission in September to investigate the scourge of corruption, finding that at least $400 million had passed through “thousands of false accounts”, using the names of impoverished people.
The commission said some 600 companies and individuals “are associated with the scandal”.