Isaac Davison is a NZ Herald political reporter.

Prime Minister Bill English urged to condemn Trump's 'racist' travel ban

US President Donald Trump signed an executive order banning travellers from Muslim-majority countries on Friday. Photo / AP
US President Donald Trump signed an executive order banning travellers from Muslim-majority countries on Friday. Photo / AP

Prime Minister Bill English is being urged to follow other international leaders in condemning US President Donald Trump's travel ban on people from Muslim countries.

New Zealand looks weak by not standing up to the "racist" ban, Green Party immigration spokeswoman Denise Roche said today, noting that France, Germany and Canada had condemned Trump's executive order banning refugees and travellers from some Muslim-majority countries.

"New Zealand has stood up for what's right in the past by refusing to have nuclear warships in our waters, and we should stand up for what's right again today," Roche said.

"We're hearing reports of families being kept apart by Trump's law change and being penalised for their ethnicity and religion. This is the very definition of racism, and we must stand up against it and help those who are victims of it."

Roche also said the Government should immediately increase New Zealand's intake of Syrian refugees now that the US had shut their doors to the war-torn country.

The Government agreed in 2015 to an emergency intake of 600 Syrian refugees over three years, on top of the annual quota, and last year raised the overall quota from 750 to 1000. Refugee advocates believe the Government should go further given the global refugee crisis and the new US policy.

English and Foreign Minister Murray McCully have been asked to comment. English has not yet received a call from Trump since the US President was sworn in, but is expected to hear from him in the next few days.

Labour leader Andrew Little also addressed the issue in his State of the Nation speech in Mt Albert today, saying New Zealand would "never" take similar measures to the US.

Instead, this country could be a "beacon to the world", Little said.

Referring to Trump and the rise of the far right in Europe, the Labour leader said: "The places that used to light the world with their progressive thinking - their lights shine
more dimly now.

"Let us never loosen our hold on what makes us who we are. We can set the standard for cooperation, for tolerance, for a government that governs with compassion.

"We can show there's a better path than isolation and bigotry. It's our turn to shine and to lead the way, to be New Zealand at its best."

Race Relations Commissioner Dame Susan Devoy also called for New Zealanders not to give in to bigotry and to stand alongside Muslim New Zealanders.

"So many of us are feeling helpless but the one thing we can do is let our own decision makers know that we will not allow hatred and intolerance to spread and become normalised here at home. Not in our New Zealand."

New Zealand-based Holocaust survivors had told her last week they never thought they would witness a return to politics of hatred within their lifetimes.

"But it's happening," Dame Susan said. "They urged us all to stand up for the rights of refugees, Muslims and minorities targeted by the powerful."

SEVEN COUNTRIES BANNED

Trump's executive order bans travel by those with passports from Iran, Iraq, Libya, Somalia, Sudan, Syria and Yemen.

It was signed on Friday and took immediate effect, leading to chaos and confusion in US airports as people from Arab countries were blocked from entering the country or boarding planes.

Responding to the executive order, German foreign minister Sigmar Gabriel said the United States was going against its Christian value of loving your neighbour.

French foreign minister Jean-Marc Ayrault said taking on refugees fleeing war and oppression was "part of our duties".

Canadian Prime Minister Justin Trudeau offered to take some of the refugees being turned away from the United States.



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