7 Mar 2017

Trump signs new travel ban order, Iraq left off

7:47 am on 7 March 2017

Donald Trump has signed a revised executive order for a US travel ban, leaving Iraq off the list of targeted countries, after his controversial first attempt was blocked in the courts.

US President Donald Trump walks from Marine One to the White House February 24, 2017 in Washington, DC.

US President Donald Trump walks from Marine One to the White House, 24 February 24, 2017. Photo: AFP

The new order, which the White House said the president had signed, will keep a 90-day ban on travel to the United States by citizens of six Muslim-majority nations: Iran, Libya, Syria, Somalia, Sudan and Yemen.

The new directive delays implementation to limit the disruption that created havoc for some travellers when Mr Trump issued his original order. It was due to take effect on 16 March, the White House said.

Mr Trump had said the restrictive order was necessary to ensure domestic security.

Secretary of state Rex Tillerson, told reporters: "As threats to our security continue to evolve and change, common sense dictates that we continually re-evaluate and reassess the systems we rely upon to protect our country."

Iraq was taken off the list in the original order, which was issued on 27 January, because the Iraqi government has imposed new vetting procedures, such as heightened visa screening and data sharing, and because of its work with the United States in countering Islamic State militants, a senior White House official said.

"There's going to be a very orderly process," a senior official from the Department of Homeland Security said. "You should not see any chaos so to speak, or alleged chaos at airports. There aren't going to be folks stopped tonight from coming into the country because of this executive order."

 JANUARY 28: Police members intervene and arrest some of activists during the protest against President Donald Trump's 90-days ban of entry on 7 Muslim-majority countries in the Fourth terminal of JFK airport in New York, U.S.A

The original travel ban created havoc for some travellers and prompted protests at airports such as JFK in New York. Photo: AFP

Thousands of Iraqis have fought alongside US troops for years or worked as translators since the US-led invasion in 2003. Many have resettled in the United States after being threatened for working with US troops.

The White House official said the new executive order also ensured that tens of thousands of legal permanent residents in the United States - or green card holders - from the listed countries would not be affected by the travel ban.

More than two dozen lawsuits were filed in US courts against the original travel ban and the state of Washington succeeded in having it suspended by the 9th Circuit court of Appeals by arguing that it violated constitutional protections against religious discrimination.

Mr Trump publicly criticised judges who ruled against him and vowed to fight the case in the Supreme Court, but then decided to draw up a new order with changes aimed at making it easier to defend in the courts.

Refugees who are "in transit" and already have been approved would be able to travel to the United States.

Mr Trump's original order barred travellers from the seven nations from entering for 90 days and all refugees for 120 days. Refugees from Syria were to be banned indefinitely but under the new order they are not given separate treatment.

"This executive order has scrapped that division and the indefinite suspension and has collapsed them into a single category of a 120-day suspension," the White House official said.

The Massachusetts attorney general, whose state opposed the ban in court, said she remained opposed to the travel ban policy and would consider all legal options.

The Washington state attorney general said Mr Trump had "capitulated" on "numerous key provisions" from his first executive order and he was also carefully reviewing the new one.

- Reuters

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