United Nations: S-G
calls for lifting of Trump's US travel ban
Published in SUNS #8394 dated 3 February 2017
Geneva, 2 Feb (Kanaga Raja) - The UN Secretary-General Antonio Guterres, who
took office in January, in a reference to US President Donald Trump's Executive
Order that suspends the entire US refugee program as well as bars nationals
from seven Muslim-majority countries from entering the country, has called for
these measures to be removed, sooner rather than later.
Mr. Guterres is the former United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees,
serving for a decade from 2005-2015.
Mr Guterres' comments came in response to a question posed to him at a press
encounter at the UN headquarters in New York on Wednesday (a transcript of that
press conference was made available to the media here).
The Executive Order signed by President Trump on 27 January 2017 suspends the
entire US refugee programme for 120 days. It also indefinitely bans the entry
of Syrian refugees.
The Order further bars all nationals from seven Muslim-majority countries -
Iran, Iraq, Libya, Somalia, Sudan, Syria and Yemen - from entering the US for
the next 90 days.
Asked if he was going to call on President Trump to lift these restrictions,
the Secretary-General said that in his opinion, the US policy "is not the
way to best protect the US or any other country in relation to the serious
concerns that exists about possibilities of terrorist infiltration."
"I don't think this is the effective way to do so, and I think that these
measures should be removed sooner rather than later," Mr Guterres said.
Asked if the country-specific visa bans are a violation of the international
obligations of the United States, the UN chief stressed that "resettlement
of refugees is, in many situations, the only possible solution."
He added that resettlement "is a must" from the point of view of
refugee protection. "And the United States has been always in the
forefront of resettlement, and Syrians are those refugees that, at the present
moment, have the most dramatic needs in the world."
"So I strongly hope that the US will be able to re-establish its very
solid refugee protection in resettlement, and I hope that the Syrians will not
be excluded in that process," said Mr Guterres.
In relation to the measures that were taken, he said that "those measures
indeed violate our basic principles, and I think that they are not effective if
the objective is to really avoid terrorists to enter the United States."
"We are dealing with very sophisticated global terrorist organisations. If
a global terrorist organisation will try to attack any country like the United
States, they will probably not come with people with passports from those
countries that are hotspots of conflict today. They might come with passports
from the most, I'll say, developed and credible countries in the world, or they
might use people that [have] been for decades sometimes inside the
"And that is why it is so important not to have measures that spread
anxiety and anger, because when we adopt measures that spread anxiety and
anger, we help trigger the kind of recruitment mechanisms that these
organisations are now doing everywhere in the world. And that is why we have
been so strongly pushing for the capacity to have very strong measures in
relation to management of borders but, at the same time, not to base them on
any discrimination linked to nationality, religion or ethnicity," the UN
"We had a very constructive discussion with the American ambassador on the
cooperation between the US and the UN. And, you know, sometimes we talk too
much about things that have not happened. And when you talk too much about
things that have not happened, you trigger the happening of those things,"
he further said.
"What I am doing is to do everything I can to prove the added value of the
UN, to recognise the UN needs reforms, to be totally committed to those
reforms, and to believe that those reforms will be the best way to get the
support of all Member States, including the United States of America and its
Asked about the US administration's broader policies such as 'America First',
threats to withdraw from the Paris Agreement on climate change or the funding
of the UN, which seems to be putting it at odds with the goals of the UN as a
whole, the UN chief said "all complicated things have an easy answer, and
the answer is to be firm in assessing all principles and open in engaging in
"And that is this combination that I will try to make effective in the way
we deal with US Administration or in the way we deal with any other
administration in the world."
Meanwhile, in a written statement on refugees issued on 31 January, the
Secretary-General referred to his trip to Ethiopia, which he pointed out is the
largest refugee-hosting country in Africa that for decades has been keeping its
borders open to hundreds of thousands of refugees from its neighbours, many
times in dramatic security situations.
He went on to underline that countries have the right, even the obligation, to
responsibly manage their borders to avoid infiltration by members of terrorist
He said this cannot be based on any form of discrimination related to religion,
ethnicity or nationality because:
* that is against the fundamental principles and values on which our societies
* that triggers widespread anxiety and anger that may facilitate the propaganda
of the very terrorist organisations we all want to fight against;
* blind measures, not based on solid intelligence, tend to be ineffective as
they risk being bypassed by what are today sophisticated global terrorist
Without explicitly mentioning the US or President Trump by name, Mr Guterres
said that he is also particularly concerned by the decisions that around the
world have been undermining the integrity of the international refugee
"Refugees fleeing conflict and persecution are finding more and more
borders closed and increasingly restricted access to the protection they need
and are entitled to receive, according to international refugee law," the
UN chief underlined.
The resounding call for the lifting of the US travel ban was echoed earlier by
a group of United Nations human rights experts who charged that the Executive
Order signed by President Trump breaches the country's international human
In a news release issued on Wednesday, the UN Special Rapporteurs on migrants,
Francois Crepeau; on racism, Mutuma Ruteere; on human rights and
counter-terrorism, Ben Emmerson; on torture, Nils Melzer; and on freedom of
religion, Ahmed Shaheed said that such human rights obligations protect the
principles of non- refoulement and non-discrimination based on race,
nationality or religion.
"Such an order is clearly discriminatory based on one's nationality and
leads to increased stigmatization of Muslim communities," said the rights
"The US recent policy on immigration also risks people being returned,
without proper individual assessments and asylum procedures, to places in which
they risk being subjected to torture and other cruel, inhuman or degrading
treatment, in direct contravention of international humanitarian and human
rights laws which uphold the principle of non-refoulement," they warned.
(See SUNS #8393 dated 2 February 2017).