English on Trump order: 'We don't agree with it'

9:56 pm on 30 January 2017

The prime minister says he disagrees with the United States' entry restrictions on citizens from seven Muslim-majority countries, but has not made his views known to President Donald Trump.

Bill English, Wira Gardiner and Hekia Parata at Ratana Pā.

Prime Minister Bill English. Photo: RNZ / Aaron Smale

Under Mr Trump's executive order, people from Iran, Iraq, Libya, Syria, Yemen, Somalia and Sudan have been prevented from entering the United States for 90 days. This would include any New Zealand resident who was a citizen of one of the seven countries.

Mr Trump also put a four-month hold on allowing refugees into America and an indefinite ban on taking refugees from Syria.

Mr English has been under mounting pressure to condemn Mr Trump's immigration order.

Race Relations Commissioner Dame Susan Devoy this morning urged him to make a statement - "if anything to assure the Muslim New Zealanders living in New Zealand that we're going to look after them".

Green Party co-leader Metiria Turei told Morning Report the order was "grossly unjust" and Mr English needed to join other country leaders and show "moral leadership".

Bill English said today he would not implement such a ban in New Zealand and disagreed with it, but he had not been in touch with Mr Trump to make his views clear.

"We wouldn't implement the kind of policy that is being implemented and we don't agree with it."

When asked why he had not criticised Mr Trump's order, Mr English said, "I just have".

"We're not being meek at all. President Trump has got to deal with his own issues and his own election promises."

"We don't agree with the policy. We have to yet to see just what turns out to be the long-term policy for the US, because this is a temporary measure."

"It does appear to have created some real chaos in the short term."

Discrimination was "not the New Zealand way".

When asked if Mr Trump was "a bigot", Mr English said it was "for others to decide".

"It's not our job to tell them how to run their country."

When asked if he would raise his views on the order with Mr Trump, if and when he spoke to him in the coming days, Mr English said: "I would expect to raise any issue that has an impact on New Zealand."

Mr English expected New Zealand would maintain its long-running relationship with the US.

Labour leader Andrew Little said he expected a stronger response from the Government.

Mr Little said Mr Trump's order was based on prejudice and discrimination.

US travel bans would not be contemplated in NZ - McCully

Earlier today, Foreign Minister Murray McCully said New Zealand would not contemplate immigration measures similar to those in the US, but stopped short of criticising the measures.

Foreign Minister Murray McCully

Murray McCully. Photo: RNZ / Rebekah Parsons-King

Mr McCully said that while the government respected the right of the US administration to determine its own immigration policy, they were not initiatives New Zealand would contemplate.

"It is clear that the immigration announcements out of the US are causing widespread confusion and considerable concern.

"At this stage MFAT has not received any requests for consular assistance as a result of the 90 day US immigration ban.

"We would encourage all people who require advice regarding travel to the US to contact the US Consulate General in Auckland in the first instance."

Devoy urges PM to reassure Kiwi Muslims

Race Relations Commissioner Dame Susan Devoy told Morning Report New Zealanders could not afford to be bystanders.

Holocaust Remembrance Day held at Makara Cemetery in Wellington. Dame Susan Devoy was a guest speaker. Raising growing concerns around the influx of hate speech online.

Race Relations Commissioner Dame Susan Devoy Photo: RNZ / Rebekah Parsons-King

"We can't actually understand how much this affects Muslim New Zealanders living here in New Zealand ... it's just so hard to believe that this is happening in this day and age.

"I know that as a result of this, people in New Zealand will feel more marginalised, more isolated and more targeted."

She urged Prime Minister Bill English to reassure New Zealand Muslims.

"I would hope the Prime Minister would come out and make a statement, if anything to assure the Muslim New Zealanders living in New Zealand that we're going to look after them, and that the situation for them is not going to become like it is overseas."

New Zealand consular assistance does not extend to those who do not carry a New Zealand passport.

"I have friends there ... they have a life there"

An Iranian New Zealander, Mo Zareei, said despite Donald Trump promising such a ban through his entire campaign, it was still surreal to see it in action.

The Victoria University lecturer and artist lived in the United States for two years but would now not be able to visit.

"I have friends who live there, they have a life there, they're visiting Europe or they're home visiting their family - and now they can't, some of them have been turned away at the airport.

"Can you imagine, they have their stuff - they live there. They have built a life. They work there, they have green cards. They have their bedrooms with their desks and their cars parked outside and food in the fridge but they're not allowed back in.

"So that's really hard to imagine what that would be like."

"For the ones who are inside, they're trapped in now, they can't get out of the country if this really happens and goes through fully.

"I'm trying to imagine, like, OK like I go visit Iran and on the way back to New Zealand at the border they tell me I can't come back - and I have an apartment here, I have a life here, I have a partner, I have a job.

"I can't - try to understand how difficult and unreasonable that is."

Mr Zareei said the policy was bizarre and the countries chosen were arbitrary.

He said at the very least the New Zealand government should speak up.

"This is something that's probably going to go down in history so it's important to at least say that this is not OK. And to make sure that the people that are targeted by this don't feel isolated and alone."

Protest at US Embassy

Some Americans were among those making their voices heard at a small protest yesterday outside the United States Embassy in Wellington.

Francesco Civilini is an American citizen having immigrated there as a child, and spent years under permanent residency status, holding a green card.

"This idea that you can be in a country for many, many years and it's intertwined with your identity, and then one day you are told without warning 'Oh no, this is not your identity anymore', regardless of how many years you've been [there] it's not your country anymore. That's - it's shocking."

Jordan Marx is originally from Washington DC and said Mr Trump was giving the United States a bad reputation.

"We're not doing very good with our image in terms of what our country is supposed to stand for - which is liberty, freedom, justice, for all. We're not doing that."

A Syrian New Zealander and spokesperson for the group Syrian Solidarity, Ali Akil, said his former countrymen needed help, but instead were being victimised.

"It's really a shameful stance of Trump and his administration, because the scale of the crisis in Syria means that there is a heavy moral duty on every single country that is able to host refugees from that war-torn country."

He said the ban was America's loss because Syrians had made a great contribution to countries all over the world.

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Photo: 123RF

Air New Zealand offers help to those affected

Air New Zealand says people with an existing booking to, from or via the United States, who were affected by the order, were being offered flexibility and should contact the airline to discuss their options.

But its spokesperson echoed the Ministry of Foreign Affairs in saying anyone unsure what effect the president's order would have on them should first contact the United States Consulate in Auckland.

United Airlines, American Airlines and Hawaiian Airlines also fly to the US from New Zealand.

Qantas yesterday said it would offer a refund or change of destination to affected passengers.

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