Domestic politics are often misunderstood as strictly internal conversations. This proposition may have held true a century ago, but today’s world is a globalized one. Any decision at home has the potential to affect every other nation.
One week after his inauguration, President Donald Trump signed an executive order that places a ban on international travel into the US. The order suspends the entry of all refugees for 120 days and requires additional screening to prevent threats to the United States. Furthermore, the order indefinitely stops the admission of Syrian refugees and bars entry for 90 days on those individuals coming from six other predominantly Muslim countries (Iran, Iraq, Sudan, Libya, Yemen, and Somalia). In the Pentagon signing ceremony, Mr. Trump said that “we only want to admit those into our country who will support our country, and love deeply our people.”
Certainly, this order has major impacts for the seven countries listed, but nearly every country around the globe will feel the impacts as well. Already, countries such as Germany and Jordan are facing greater demands to accept refugees and difficult decisions regarding travel recommendations for their nationals. What have world leaders said in response to the executive order and its international effects?
Countries listed in the order have staunchly expressed their upset and indignation with the ban, suggesting not only its illegitimacy but its illegality. Iran’s Foreign Minister Javad Zarif described the decision as a “great gift to extremists.” He further explained that “collective discrimination aids terrorist recruitment by deepening fault lines exploited by extremist demagogues to swell their ranks.”
While most Muslim-majority countries not listed in the ban have remained silent, Pakistan has been one of the few to speak up. Chaudry Nisar Ali Khan, Pakistan’s Interior Minister, agreed that the action will have detrimental effects on the global war on terror. He further elaborated that terrorists will benefit while compounding the harms suffered by terrorism’s greatest victims: the refugees now denied entry.
America’s allies have also decried the travel ban. French Foreign Minister Jean-Marc Ayrault tweeted that “terrorism doesn’t have a nationality; discrimination is not an answer.” Most notable about this statement is France’s own rocky history with its Muslim population and religious tolerance. German Chancellor Angela Merkel has come out strongly against President’s Trump’s refugee order. In a telephone call with the newly elected President, Merkel highlighted the fact that humanitarian responsibilities were incurred in the signing of the Geneva Conventions. In 2015 alone, Germany accepted one million asylum seekers, more than any European nation. Speaking on the Chancellor’s behalf, spokesman Steffen Seibert announced that “the necessary, decisive battle against terrorism does not justify putting people of a specific background or faith under general suspicion.”
On the other hand, America’s closest ally has only hesitantly spoke about the ban. British political leaders have largely condemned the decision to adopt an executive order on immigration as it relates to one’s religion; but Prime Minister Theresa May only released a statement after coming under strong criticism for not having commented sooner. In the end, May expressed general disapproval but reminded the international community that “immigration policy in the United States is a matter for the government of the United States.” This has been, perhaps, the most neutral reaction thus far.
Australian Prime Minister Malcolm Turnbull has been one of the few world leaders to openly speak in support of Mr. Trump’s decision. Australia has come under criticism for their use of refugee detention centers and has previously considered similar legislation turning away many maritime asylum seekers. In response to the ban in the US, Turnball expressed his support, saying that a nation must be able to control who enters the country and that it is a matter of national security.
For most world leaders, the travel ban is inconsistent with American principles of freedom and tolerance of diversity; and, with few exceptions, the international community has expressed their discontent with decision. Despite its strong domestic implications and the order’s desire to protect Americans, the rest of the world feels the impacts just as strongly. The international community is no longer a set of isolated states, loosely connected by trade. Today, we stand stronger together and mutually depend on the support of our allies in every corner of the globe. Considering the strong negative response, the United States could now be facing a crisis of alienating friendly nations. Only time will reveal the potential diplomatic repercussions of the executive order.