Changes to Visa Waiver Program “discriminatory” says aid organisation

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Changes to Visa Waiver Program could impact weapons inspectors and aid workers

Recent changes to the US Visa Waiver Program are “discriminatory,” according to Manchester based aid organisation, Rethink, Rebuild Society (RR).

The changes mean that those who have travelled to  Syria, Iraq, Iran or  Sudan within the last five years, will no longer be eligible to enter the United States under the program.

Also affected are those holding dual nationality with any of the named countries.

RR, a community organisation established to aid Syrians settling in Manchester, is calling upon the British government to formally protest the new legislation via the American embassy in London.

In a statement, RR said: “These changes will not make the US – or any other country – safer.

“As argued by European ambassadors to the US in an open letter, the visa waiver program ‘makes travel to the U.S. both easier and safer’ by creating an environment of cooperation and sharing security intelligence between participating countries.

“It does not compromise the security of the US or that of any other country.”

Under provisions of the Visa Waiver Program (VWP) citizens of 38 countries, including most of Europe and various pacific rim nations, were previously allowed to enter the US for up to 90 days without a visa.

However, following last November’s Paris attacks, legislation to restrict some passengers from travelling passed through the House of Representatives with an “overwhelming bipartisan majority,” according to a report in The Guardian.

RR went on to say: “There are other ways to protect national security interests than in creating discriminatory policies against dual nationals of targeted states or individuals who travelled to these states.

“It is ultimately conduct, and not identity, which should serve as the basis for visa restrictions.”

A number of other groups, including the American Civil Liberties Union (ACLU) and Human Rights Watch (HRW) have also voiced concerns.

It is feared that the changes will negatively impact education and humanitarian aid work carried out by citizens of VWP countries in the five affected nations.

The ACLU warns that the legislation is far too broad.

According to Joanne Lin, writing in an article for the organisation’s website, the legislation could affect: “weapons inspectors examining Iran nuclear facilities, social workers interviewing Kurdish refugees in Iraq, physicians treating patients in Darfur and human rights investigators documenting atrocities committed by ISIL.”

There are also fears that the changes could impact American citizens.

As the Visa Waiver Program is reciprocal in nature, the 38 signatory countries could enact the same changes, making it more difficult for Americans, including officials, to travel to those countries.


Categories: Europe, UK, USA

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