WASHINGTON: US President Donald Trump Monday signed a new temporary travel ban, this time targeting travelers from six Muslim majority countries and crafting his executive order in ways intended to survive challenges in the US courts. The new ban, which goes into effect from March 16, no longer restricts travel from Iraq, one of seven listed in the original order. The 90-day ban now is limited to Iran, Libya, Somalia, Syria, Sudan and Yemen. As before, the order shuts down the US refugee programme for 120 days to give the federal government time to develop “extreme vetting” procedures to prevent terrorists from entering the country. However, Syrians are no longer subject to an indefinite ban, as they were under the first order. The White House spent weeks drafting the revised ban, coordinating with the Departments of State, Justice and Homeland Security to avoid the chaos that followed the Jan. 27 order. That one took immediate effect, snarling travel for thousands of people around the world and at U.S. airports. This time, the order takes effect 10 days after Trump signs it at the White House. “The US Government must ensure that those entering this country will not harm the American people after entering, and that they do not bear malicious intent toward the United States and its people,” Homeland Security said in a statement. “This Executive Order ensures that we have a functional immigration system that safeguards our national security.”
Critics questioned the composition of the list, which includes citizens from countries that have never been involved in terror attacks in the United States. They accused Trump of covertly pursuing his controversial and possibly illegal campaign promise of a “total and complete shutdown of Muslims entering the United States.” The question of Trump’s intent is likely to dominate new legal challenges that are already being flagged by organisations like the American Civil Liberties Union. “President Trump has recommitted himself to religious discrimination, and he can expect continued disapproval from both the courts and the people,” said Omar Jadwat, director of the ACLU’s Immigrant Rights Project. Senate Democratic leader Chuck Schumer said the measure should be repealed, adding: “A watered down ban is still a ban.” Iraq’s inclusion in the first order prompted outrage in that country, including from Prime Minister Haider al-Abadi. It risked scuttling cooperation between Baghdad and Washington in fighting the Islamic State group. The US and Iraqi militaries are currently fighting side-by-side in northern Iraq, trying to wrest the city of Mosul from jihadist control. The Iraqi foreign ministry on Monday expressed its “deep satisfaction” with the new order, and described it as an “important step” in strengthening relations between Baghdad and Washington. But the revised travel ban is also likely to sow further confusion about US immigration policies. On Monday, Nigeria advised its citizens against all but essential travel to the United States, citing the lack of clarity on new immigration rules. “In the last few weeks, the office has received a few cases of Nigerians with valid multiple-entry US visas being denied entry and sent back to Nigeria,” said special adviser to the president Abike Dabiri-Erewa. According to a report released Monday by travel data firm Forwardkeys, travel from the United States to the Middle East has also fallen sharply, with bookings for departure in the next three months falling 25.4 percent behind the equivalent time last year.