Confusion reigns on immigration policy

9:42 pm on 1 February 2017

Confusion remains about what the US immigration ban means for New Zealanders with dual nationalities from one of the seven barred countries.


Immigration Photo: supplied

The US Embassy in Wellington says dual citizens of New Zealand and Yemen, Libya and Somalia may still travel to the US where they will be given a visa on arrival.

However, if they have travelled to any of those countries, as well as the other specifically restricted countries Iraq, Iran, Syria and Sudan, they must apply for a visa before travelling.

The embassy said dual citizens from New Zealand and Iraq, Iran, Syria and Sudan were not eligible for a visa on arrival before the executive order and they must still apply for a visa.

A lot of Muslim New Zealanders were confused and stressed about what the complicated policy means for those wanting to travel to the US.

The president of the Federation of Islamic Associations in New Zealand, Hazim Arafeh, said figuring out what the policy means for his members is a headache.

"You have to have a PhD in international law before you apply to a visa to go to the States.

"It's very confusing, it's very disturbing, we still think it's a discriminatory policy," he said.

"It's just really tarnishing the image of the United States as a beacon of liberty, as a beacon of freedom."

He was happy the Prime Minister voiced some disagreement with the policy, but he thought Mr English could have been stronger.

"There is no doubt that this policy will add a lot of stress to peoples' lives.

"We still fully believe that it's linking Islam and Muslims with terrorism and the whole Muslim world has said since day one till now that terrorism has no religion.

"It's unfair on us to be treated this way by the American president."

The Prime Minister Bill English said as far as he was concerned the policy is now clear for New Zealand citizens with dual nationality.

"The US administration has been having to work pretty hard to clarify the policy themselves.

"They would have been dealing with enquiries from probably every country in the world," he said.

"It's taken a while but now the position's clear and I'm pleased that New Zealanders that are dual citizens are not caught up in this policy."

Mr English said New Zealand can still maintain a good relationship with the US, even if he voices his disagreement with President Trump's policy.

"That doesn't change the need for, as a small country, a positive relationship with the US and I think you can do that at the same time as disagreeing with some of the policies.

"I don't see why it should affect the fundamental relationship."

Meanwhile the Refugee Council of New Zealand was adamant the Trump administration has broken international law in flouting its responsibilities to the Refugee Convention.

Its vice president Colin Henry said there needs to be more condemnation not just from the Prime Minister but also the ministries of Foreign Affairs and Immigration.

"We urge the Prime Minister and other ministers of Government to express New Zealand's distance, in fact condemnation of that type of world politics, which appears to be singling out persons on the basis of their religion, ethnicity and other such prescribed grounds," he said.

Delay in clear information 'not satifactory'

The Foreign Affairs Minister said he had full confidence in his Ministry despite delays in finding out how the immigration ban in the US would affect some New Zealanders.

Murray McCully summoned the Foreign Affairs Ministry's chief executive, Brook Barrington, to the Beehive on Wednesday for a "please explain" over the delay.

Mr McCully said he conveyed his disappointment to Dr Barrington, in that the government expected a faster response.

"They did not meet the standard that the Prime Minister or my colleagues would have expected and I wanted to make that clear."

"I'm not going into where the shortcomings might have been, it's between Wellington and Washington. I'm just being very clear that the outcome was not satifactory."

He said he would work with the Ministry to make sure that better results were achieved in future.

"Dr Barrington has my complete confidence and support."

Murray McCully said these were difficult times as the level of change in the US is substantial.

"This transition in the US is a big deal and it is going to take some time and we can't use that as an excuse. The Ministry does need to meet a certain standard in term of its ability to get answers and to interpret what's actually going on."

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