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UAE residents outraged by 'unfair' travel ban to US

ABU DHABI // UAE residents were outraged by the “unfair” travel ban issued on Friday that prevents many of them from travelling to the United States.

US president Donald Trump issued an executive order barring citizens from Sudan, Yemen, Syria, Libya, Somalia, Iran and Iraq from entering the country for 90 days.

“I really believe this is unfair because there are many Somalis across the world who are professional and educated,” said Zahra Amir, a Somali who was born and raised in Abu Dhabi. “Regardless of the situation of their country, they worked hard to prove themselves and there are people who aren’t lucky like us [UAE raised expatriates] who always seek an opportunity, so to close the door in front of them is really unfair.”

The 37-year-old, who works for Dubai World Trade Centre, will consequently not be able to attend a fair with her colleagues in New York at the end of February. “Part of our work is to go to international shows to get new ideas and apply them in Dubai,” Ms Amir said. “It’s important for us to develop our portfolio of exhibitions and this is just very harsh, shocking and disappointing for me, my development and my career.”

She said the US and Canada were seen as a beacon of hope for developing countries in Africa. “When we close the door like that, it’s really unfair,” she said. “I thought Trump was just talking. There should be case to case conditions with security checks in place, not a complete ban. I just hope it’s a decision that will be reviewed.”

Mohammed Omari, a Dubai resident who has both British and Sudanese passports, said Sudan should not be on the banned list. “Sudan is a non-issue because it has nothing to do with refugees and there aren’t fundamentalists there,” he said. “There is famine and Darfur but these are non-Muslim issues, so the country has typical African country problems but not like these other countries in terms of Islamisation, so it’s strange it’s even on there.”

He said he still had hope and faith that Trump would change his rhetoric. “There’s no ideology behind it and it’s straight politics,” Mr Omari said. “I feel hurt because the States for me is like home and it’s a country I actually really like. The worst part about it is that it’s a slippery slope and it’s scary because it’s unknown.”

An Iranian who has been living in the US for seven years was removed from her flight bound for Washington from Dubai on Saturday. “No one warned me when I was leaving, no one cared what will happen to my dog or my job or my life there,” she said on Facebook. “No one told me what I should do with my car that is still parked at the airport parking. Or what to do with my house and all my belongings. They didn’t say it with words but with their actions, that my life doesn’t matter. Everything I worked for all these years doesn’t matter.”

The US embassy in Abu Dhabi said on Sunday that US visa issuance to citizens of these seven countries had been suspended until further notice. “If you are a national or dual national of one of the listed countries, please do not schedule a visa appointment or pay any visa fees,” it said. “If you already have an appointment scheduled, please do not attend your appointment as we will not be able to proceed with a visa interview.”

It added that official government travel or travel on behalf of designated international organisations was not subject to the suspension.

“This suspension provided for in the executive order will allow us to review current screening procedures, while protecting national security – our top priority when issuing visas,” said a US embassy official. “The US government’s national security visitor screening and vetting procedures are constantly reviewed and refined to improve security and more effectively identify individuals who could pose a threat to the US. We welcome every opportunity to continue to review and improve our systems and procedures. We are reviewing the executive order and working closely with the Department of Homeland Security to implement it immediately.”

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