US resumes refugee admissions … 11 countries blocked
DUBAI, UAE, Oct 25, (Agencies): Five global long-haul airlines will begin new security interviews of all passengers on US-bound flights starting Thursday at the request of American officials, the companies said Wednesday. Long-haul carriers Air France, Cathay Pacific, EgyptAir, Emirates and Lufthansa all said they’d start the screenings. A sixth carrier, Royal Jordanian, said it would begin the new procedures in mid-January after US authorities granted RJ’s request for a delay in implementing the measures. However, the airlines offered different descriptions of how the interviews would take place, ranging from another form a traveler would have to fill out to actually being questioned by an airline employee.
It wasn’t immediately clear if other global airlines would be affected, though the Trump administration previously rolled out a laptop ban and travel bans that have thrown the international travel industry into disarray. The US Department of Homeland Security did not immediately respond to a request for comment. However, it comes at the end of a 120-day deadline for airlines to meet new US regulations following the ban on laptops in airplane cabins of some Mideast airlines being lifted.
Air France said it will begin new security interviews on Thursday at Paris Orly Airport and a week later, on Nov 2, at Charles de Gaulle Airport. It said the extra screening will take the form of a questionnaire handed over to “100 percent” of passengers. Emirates said in a statement it would begin doing “pre-screening interviews” at its check-in counters for passengers flying out of Dubai and at boarding gates for transit and transfer fliers. It urged those flying through Dubai International Airport, its headquarters, to allow extra time to check into flights and board. Meanwhile, the United States will resume accepting refugees after a 120- day ban, but arrivals from 11 “highrisk” countries, most of them home to Muslim majorities, will still be blocked, officials announced Tuesday.
The temporary ban, which President Donald Trump fought to implement since January and finally proceeded with in late June after a Supreme Court decision, allowed officials to review security procedures and set tougher screening procedures. Jennifer Higgins, associate director for refugees at the US Citizenship and Immigration Services agency, said applicants will face “enhanced” vetting as a result of the review, including more in-depth checks of their social media presence and connections. “The security of the American people is our highest priority,” she told journalists in a briefing.
Trump issued a new executive order on refugees late Tuesday that replaced the expiring one, which was a amendment to the Iran Nuclear Agreement Review Act passed in 2015, broadens a required administration assessment on whether Iran is complying with the pact to add factors related to issues from trade to whether Iran is using commercial aircraft licensed by the United States for non-civil aviation purposes.
As previously reported, it would instantly reimpose, or “snap back” sanctions lifted under the agreement if Iran were deemed capable of developing a nuclear weapon within a year. The Iran issue has been complicated by Trump’s recent attacks on Corker, in which he blamed him for the nuclear deal forged under former Democratic president Barack Obama.
The pact, which world leaders have urged Trump not to derail, was opposed by every Republican in Congress including Corker. Corker has lashed back at Trump by saying he has failed to grow into the job as president and blaming him for breaking down important international relationships.
A spokeswoman for Corker did not immediately respond to a request for comment on how the dispute with the president might affect the Iran legislation. US Secretary of State Rex Tillerson said Wednesday that US sanctions against Iran targeted the country’s “malign behaviours” and were aimed at helping the Iranian people take control of their government. Tillerson told a New Delhi press conference after talks with India’s Foreign Minister Sushma Swaraj that the United States would not block “legitimate” business activities with Iran by India or any other ally.