Washington: Citizens of seven mainly Muslim countries who were banned from the United States by President Donald Trump can resume boarding U.S.-bound flights, the U.S. government said on Saturday, after a Seattle judge blocked his executive order.
The ruling gave hope to many travellers and sent some scrambling for tickets, worried that the newly opened window might not last long. Trump denounced the judge on Twitter and said the decision would be quashed.
“The opinion of this so-called judge, which essentially takes law-enforcement away from our country, is ridiculous and will be overturned!” the president said.
The travel ban, which Trump says is needed to protect the United States against Islamist militants, has sparked travel chaos around the world and condemnation by rights groups who have called it racist and discriminatory.
“Interesting that certain Middle-Eastern countries agree with the ban. They know if certain people are allowed in it’s death & destruction!” Trump tweeted. “When a country is no longer able to say who can, and who cannot, come in & out, especially for reasons of safety & security – big trouble!” In the wake of Friday’s ruling, Qatar Airways was the first to say it would allow passengers from Iran, Iraq, Libya, Somalia, Sudan, Syria and Yemen to resume flying to U.S. cities if they had valid documents.
Fellow Gulf carriers Etihad and Emirates said they would do the same, as did others including British Airways, Air France, Spain’s Iberia and Germany’s Lufthansa. “I am very happy that we are going to travel today. Finally, we made it,” said Fuad Sharef, an Iraqi with an immigration visa who was prevented along with his family from boarding a flight to New York a week ago.
“We were right, we are legal. Even at that time, I was optimistic. I was sure that we were going to go. I didn’t surrender and I fought for my right and other people’s right,” he told Reuters. The family was due to fly on Turkish Airlines later on Saturday from Erbil, the capital of the Kurdish region of northern Iraq, to Istanbul and then to New York, before starting a new life in Nashville, Tennessee.
Officials in Lebanon and Jordan, however, said they had received no new instructions regarding the Jan. 27 travel ban. A spokeswoman for budget airline Norwegian, which operates transatlantic flights including from London and Oslo, said the situation was “still very unclear”.
In Cairo, aviation sources said Egypt Air and other airlines had told their sales offices of Friday’s ruling and would allow people previously affected by the ban to book flights. But for some who had changed their travel plans following the ban, the order was not enough reassurance.
Trump’s order caused chaos at airports across the United States last week. Virtually all refugees were also barred, upending the lives of thousands of people who had spent years seeking asylum in the U.S.
The State Department said on Friday that almost 60,000 visas were suspended following Trump’s order. It was not clear whether that suspension was automatically revoked or what reception travelers with such visas might get at U.S. airports.