Europe, Mideast push back against Trump refugee ban amid more travel tensions

U.S. President Donald Trump's travel ban on citizens from seven Muslim-majority countries has sparked anger in regions where travellers or refugees are affected, and objections from the leaders of some European nations.

Trump's executive order 'will be known as a great gift to extremists,' Iran says

People protest against the travel ban at O'Hare airport in Chicago on Saturday. (Kamil Krzaczynski/Reuters)

U.S. President Donald Trump's travel ban on citizens from seven Muslim-majority countries has sparked anger in regions where travellers or refugees are affected, and objections from the leaders of some European nations.

The European Union's foreign policy chief lashed out at Trump on Sunday, insisting that instead of building walls, Europe will "celebrate" every wall which is torn down and "every new bridge that is built up."

Building on criticism from several national EU capitals on Trump's decision to impose a travel ban on refugees, EU High Representative Federica Mogherini said that "all men are first and foremost human beings, with their inalienable rights."

U.K. does 'not agree' with ban

A spokesman for Chancellor Angela Merkel said the German leader believes the ban is wrong.

Germany's dpa news agency quoted Merkel's spokesman Steffen Seibert saying Sunday that "she is convinced that even the necessary, resolute fight against terrorism doesn't justify putting people of a particular origin or particular faith under general suspicion."

There were also demonstrations at John F. Kennedy International Airport in New York. (Stephanie Keith/Getty Images)

Merkel and Trump spoke by phone Saturday for the first time since his inauguration. A joint U.S.-German statement following the call made no mention of the topic of refugees or travel bans.

British Prime Minister Theresa May, on a visit to Turkey Saturday, would only say that Trump's decision was a matter solely for the United States.

However, her official spokesman on Sunday said May does "not agree" with Trump's order and will challenge the U.S. government if it has an adverse effect on British nationals.

The British government is studying the order to gauge its impact on British nationals.

Dutch Prime Minister Mark Rutte said the Netherlands is convinced that refugees "deserve a safe shelter regardless of their origin or religion."

Iran bans U.S. nationals

Iran said on Saturday it would stop U.S. citizens entering the country in retaliation to Washington's travel ban.

"While respecting the American people and distinguishing between them and the hostile policies of the U.S. government, Iran will implement the principle of reciprocity until the offensive U.S. limitations against Iranian nationals are lifted," a foreign ministry statement said.

"The restrictions against travel by Muslims to America ... are an open affront against the Muslim world and the Iranian nation in particular and will be known as a great gift to extremists," the statement said.

Order 'counterproductive' in fight against ISIS

"There's a great deal of anger throughout the Middle East and the Muslim world, and in the world at large where I am, whether you're talking about France or Germany," said Mideast analyst Fawaz Gerges, speaking to CBC from London on Sunday.

"Trump's banning of Muslims from seven countries and Syrian refugees and the Iraqi refugees is basically ineffective in the fight against ISIS and al-Qaeda. It's even counterproductive. It's foolishly un-American. It's sweet music to the ears of al-Qaeda and ISIS," said Gerges, chair of contemporary Middle Eastern studies at the London School of Economics and Political Science.

Iraqi Shia cleric Muqtada al-Sadr on Sunday said American citizens should leave Iraq. 'It would be arrogance for you to enter Iraq and other countries freely while barring them entrance to your country,' he said. (Alaa-Al-Marjani/Reuters)

"It's providing ISIS with motivation," and is the "best recruitment strategy for both al-Qaeda and ISIS," he said.

Iraq plans to lobby the U.S. administration to mitigate the impact of the new travel curbs on Iraqis, to preserve co-operation in the war on the Islamic State in Iraq and Syria, two members of parliament, who declined to be identified, said on Sunday.

Iraqi MPs denounce U.S. decision

Iraqi politicians called Trump's move "unfair" and are pressing their government to now ban Americans coming into their country.​

"Iraq is in the front line of the war on terrorism (...) and it is unfair that the Iraqis are treated in this way," the Iraqi parliament's foreign affairs committee said in a statement Sunday.

Popular Mobilization, a coalition of mainly Shia Muslim paramilitary groups armed and trained by Iran to fight ISIS, urged Prime Minister Haider al-Abadi's government to expel U.S. nationals.

An influential Iraqi Shia cleric also said on Sunday that American nationals should leave Iraq, in retaliation for the travel ban.

"It would be arrogance for you to enter freely Iraq and other countries while barring to them the entrance to your country ... and therefore you should get your nationals out,'' Muqtada al-Sadr said on his website.

Olympic athlete in limbo

Four-time Olympic champion runner Mo Farah says the new immigration policy "seems to have made me an alien" and fears he may not be able to return to his U.S. home.

Farah is a British citizen and father who was born in Somalia. He is currently in training in Ethiopia, while his family is based in Portland, Oregon.

Farah's agent said the athlete is trying to clarify the situation with U.S. authorities.

U.S. politicians try to cut through border chaos

The confusion over who would be rejected for entry into the U.S. continued Sunday.

After immigration agents detained two Iraqis on Saturday at New York's John F. Kennedy International Airport, their lawyers and two U.S. representatives accompanying them tried to cross into a secure area — and were stopped themselves.

"Step back! Step back!" the agents shouted at them.

A few minutes later, Heidi Nassauer, chief of passenger operations for U.S. Customs and Border Protection (CBP) at the airport, was called over.

Representatives Jerrold Nadler and Nydia Velazquez, both Democrats from New York, wanted clarification on whether Trump's immigration ban prevented the Iraqis from consulting with lawyers.

Nassauer had no clear answer. "We are as much in the dark as everybody else," said the border protection official at one of the largest U.S. airports.

The tense exchange, witnessed by Reuters, was representative of the confusion at airports across the United States and others overseas after Trump abruptly halted immigration from seven majority-Muslim countries — Iran, Iraq, Sudan, Somalia, Yemen, Libya and Syria — and temporarily put a stop to the entry of refugees.

With files from Reuters