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World blasts Trump's refugee move, although some cheer it

USA TODAY logo USA TODAY 29/01/2017 Kim Hjelmgaard
The controversial move by a Trump administration barely a week old forced political leaders around the world to pick a side on an emotive moral and legal issue. © Reynolds/Epa/REX/Shutterstock The controversial move by a Trump administration barely a week old forced political leaders around the world to pick a side on an emotive moral and legal issue.

There was broad international condemnation this weekend for President Trump's attempt to suspend all refugee admissions and ban millions of Muslims from entering the United States — but there were also messages of support from some right-wing groups and quarters.

Trump's executive order to halt refugee entries for 120 days and restrict for three months immigration by nationals from Libya, Iraq, Iran, Somalia, Sudan and Yemen — Muslim-majority countries with a combined population of 190 million — was partially blocked late Saturday. A U.S. District court judge in Brooklyn issued an emergency stay preventing deportations for those already in the U.S. or in transit with valid visas.   

But the controversial move by a Trump administration barely a week old forced political leaders around the world to pick a side on an emotive moral and legal issue at a time when many countries are trying to work out just what kind of relationship they can expect to have with Trump's new White House. 

One of the clearest early rejections of Trump's visa ban came from Canada, where Prime Minister Justin Trudeau vowed to welcome refugees turned away by the U.S.

"To those fleeing persecution, terror & war, Canadians will welcome you, regardless of your faith. Diversity is our strength #WelcomeToCanada," Trudeau tweeted Saturday. About 39,000 Syrian refugees have been granted entry to Canada since Trudeau's election in 2015. Trudeau did not call out Trump directly. 

In Europe, where there have been far fewer refugees and migrants arriving this year from Syria and other Middle East conflict zones as a result of a repatriation deal between the European Union and Turkey, where many displaced people access the continent, there were polite but disapproving statements from France and Germany.

"When (Trump) refuses the arrival of refugees, while Europe has done its duty, we have to respond," French President François Hollande said. 

"The United States is a country where Christian traditions have an important meaning. Loving your neighbor is a major Christian value, and that includes helping people,” said Sigmar Gabriel, Germany's foreign minister. "I think that is what unites us in the West, and I think that is what we want to make clear to the Americans."

German leader Angela Merkel spoke to Trump on Saturday. According to a White House readout of the call they did not discuss the refugee ban.

However, Merkel's spokesman Steffen Seibert said Sunday that Merkel "is convinced that even the necessarily resolute fight against terrorism does not justify placing people of a certain background or a certain faith under general suspicion."

Merkel made the decision to accept about a million asylum seekers in 2015 and has become a poster-politician for lenient refugee policies, but it has come at the expense of defeats in local elections and slumping poll numbers. 

In Britain, where Prime Minister Theresa May was fresh from a meeting with Trump on Friday when the two leaders reaffirmed close Anglo-American ties and the "special relationship," there was criticism not just for Trump's executive order but also for what was perceived to be the British government's weak and late rebuke. 

May initially failed to condemn the move that left thousands of people in legal limbo and led to protests by lawyers and human rights group at several major U.S. airports.

Eventually her office released a statement that said, "Immigration policy in the United States is a matter for the government of the United States, just the same as immigration policy for this country should be set by our government. But we do not agree with this kind of approach and it is not one we will be taking."

Scottish leader Nicola Sturgeon said "(May) should have said this the first time she was asked, not hours later and only under pressure."

"President Trump’s executive order against refugees and Muslims should shock and appall us all," said Jeremy Corbyn, leader of Britain's opposition Labour Party.

Corbyn called for Trump's state visit to Britain to be put on hold. While in Washington, May announced Trump had accepted an invitation from Queen Elizabeth for later this year. A public petition against Trump's planned visit hit the 100,000 mark Sunday, which could trigger a debate in Parliament.   

But there was no equivocating from Geert Wilders, a Dutch politician who is the and outspoken, anti-establishment front-runner in that nation's upcoming March elections. 

"Well done @POTUS it's the only way to stay safe + free. I would do the same. Hope you'll add more Islamic countries like Saudi Arabia soon," Wilders, who is known for his Islamophobia and strident anti-immigration views, said in a tweet, referring to Trump by an acronym used for the U.S. president. 

Wilders said that "no more immigration from any Islamic country is exactly what we need. Also in the Netherlands. For Islam and freedom are incompatible."

A spokesman for the Czech president Milos Zeman, who has previously made forceful anti-refugee comments, also found something to praise in Trump's ban. “US president Trump protects his country, he’s concerned with the safety of his citizens. Exactly what EU elites do not do," Jiri Ovcacek said. 

In France, right-wing National Front politician Marine Le Pen, a Trump admirer who is seen as a serious contender to win April's presidential race, said that in imposing the restrictions Trump was simply following through on his campaign commitments. "That's what bothers the media and politicians," she said.  

Iran said it would retaliate against its inclusion on the list of banned Muslim countries. "While respecting Americans & differentiating between them & hostile U.S. policies, Iran will take reciprocal measures to protect citizens," Foreign Minister Javad Zarif said in a tweet Sunday. Zarif said the ban was a "great gift to extremists."

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