Middle Eastern airlines – including Emirates and Etihad – are now accepting previously-barred passengers on US-bound flights again.
It was a controversial move that sparked worldwide protests, but now US President Donald Trump’s visa ban has been stopped in its tracks.
A federal judge has lifted the travel ban placed on citizens from seven MENA nations that was imposed by Trump in an executive order last week.
US District Judge James Robart lifted the ban – which blocked entry to the US for nationals of Libya, Somalia, Sudan, Syria, Yemen, Iran and Iraq – on Friday.
Previously, citizens of those countries were barred from the US for 90 days, even if they had legal visas in place.
Trump’s order also prevented immigration by Syrian citizens indefinitely, and blocked refugee admissions for 120 days.
However since Judge Robart’s interception, airlines are allowing passengers from those seven countries to board States-bound flights once more.
Airlines including Emirates, Qatar Airwards, Royal Jordanian and Etihad have confirmed passengers and refugees with valid documents can now travel as per usual.
“Acceptance will naturally be subject to checks completed by US authorities as existed prior to the issuance of the Executive Order on 27 January,” an Etihad spokesman told Reuters.
The US State Department said over the weekend that they’re expecting “some refugees to arrive [on] Monday”.
The White House has since stated it will appeal Judge Robart’s ruling as soon as possible, with Trump telling reporters that he expects the Justice Department to succeed.
“We’ll win. For the safety of the country, we’ll win,” he said, according to Reuters.
Because the ban was lifted by a judge, many very bad and dangerous people may be pouring into our country. A terrible decision
— Donald J. Trump (@realDonaldTrump) February 4, 2017
The President also tweeted emphatically on the ban’s blocking, posting: “The opinion of this so-called judge, which essentially takes law enforcement away from our country, is ridiculous and will be overturned.”
Immigration advocacy groups, including the American Civil Liberties Union, have urged those barred under the ban to “consider rebooking travel to the United States immediately” in case the ruling is nullified.
The visa ban, which caused chaos at airports around the world when it was enforced, was part of Trump’s plan to crack down on immigration to the States.
“We’re going to have extreme vetting in all cases. And I mean extreme,” the President told ABC News last month.
“And we’re not letting people in if we think there’s even a little chance of some problem.
“For other countries we’re gonna have extreme vetting. It’s going to be very hard to come in. Right now it’s very easy to come in. It’s gonna be very, very hard. I don’t want terror in this country.”
Turning passengers away was ‘heart-wrenching’
Judge Robart’s ruling is likely to be celebrated by airline staff, who have admitted blocking passengers from flying to the US was incredibly traumatic.
An employee at Dubai International Airport told The Guardian this weekend that “turning people away was heart-wrenching; my colleagues and I were in disbelief”.
“One Syrian woman with a green card – who had lived in the US for decades – was turned away due to the order. We also couldn’t send her to 95 per cent of our destinations as she holds a Syrian passport, which left her stuck in the airport for 48 hours,” the unnamed worker said.
“I’m not sure what political games the president thinks he’s playing, but I’ve seen first-hand how this ridiculous order is ruining people’s lives.”