World / Politics

Under fire, British prime minister criticizes Trump's curbs on refugees


After coming under criticism from lawmakers in her own party for not condemning his executive order when initially questioned, Prime Minister Theresa May said Britain does not agree with U.S. President Donald Trump’s curbs on immigration.

On a visit to Turkey on Saturday, she was asked three times to comment on Trump’s move to put a four-month hold on allowing refugees into the United States and to temporarily bar travelers from Syria and six other Muslim-majority countries, which he said would protect Americans from violent Islamists.

May — who had flown to Turkey from the United States where she was the first foreign leader to meet the new U.S. president for talks she called successful — replied that Washington is responsible for its policy on refugees.

But after the prime minister flew back to a political storm in London late Saturday, coming under fire from within her own party, her spokesman said Britain disagrees with Trump’s ban.

“Immigration policy in the United States is a matter for the government of the United States, just the same as immigration policy for this country should be set by our government,” he said.

“But we do not agree with this kind of approach and it is not one we will be taking. We are studying this new executive order to see what it means and what the legal effects are, and in particular what the consequences are for U.K. nationals.”

Britain’s disapproval sharpened Sunday when Foreign Secretary Boris Johnson said in a tweet: “Divisive and wrong to stigmatise because of nationality.”

“We will protect the rights and freedoms of U.K. nationals home and abroad,” he added.

Government Minister David Gauke earlier defended May’s initial refusal to voice any criticize, saying she was not a “shoot from the hip” politician and wanted to take a considered view. “The important thing is we are saying that we disagree with it and we think it’s wrong,” he told BBC TV on Sunday.

Britain will make representations to the United States on behalf of any British nationals affected by the policy, he said.

Trump’s executive order plunged America’s immigration system into chaos, with legal U.S. residents being turned away at airports, and drew criticism from Western allies, including France and Germany.

The U.S. ban affects travelers with passports from Iran, Iraq, Libya, Somalia, Sudan, Syria and Yemen. According to State Department guidance, travelers with dual nationality will also be affected.

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