Britain, Germany join in condemning Trump travel ban

Theresa May and Angela Merkel joined the leaders of several other European nations in criticizing the new US executive order barring entry to travelers from seven Muslim-majority nations.

Stefan Sauer/AP
German chancellor Angela Merkel spoke Saturday about migration.

The leaders of Britain and Germany joined other American allies Sunday in criticizing President Donald Trump's entry ban on people from seven Muslim-majority countries, even as some far-right politicians expressed hope the move would inspire similar measures in Europe.

British Prime Minister Theresa May does "not agree" with Trump's order and will challenge the U.S. government if it has an adverse effect on British nationals, a spokesman said. The official comment came after May refused to condemn the ban during a visit to Turkey to meet with Turkish leaders. She said in Turkey that the decision was a matter solely for the U.S.

German Chancellor Angela Merkel also regrets the travel ban.

"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," Merkel spokesman Steffen Seibert said.

Merkel raised the issue during a phone call with Trump on Saturday, citing the 1951 Geneva Refugee Convention that calls on signatories to take in people fleeing war, Seibert said.

"The German government will now examine what consequences the U.S. government's measures have for German citizens with dual citizenship and, if necessary, represent their interests toward our American partners," he said.

An initial joint U.S.-German statement following the call made no mention of the topic of refugees or travel bans.

One of the first European leaders to express disapproval was French President Francois Hollande, who said Saturday that "when (Trump) rejects the arrival of refugees, while Europe has done its duty, we should respond to him."

Meanwhile, nationalist and far-right groups on the continent applauded the U.S. travel restrictions.

The Dutch anti-Islam populist Geert Wilders said in a tweet: "Well done @POTUS it's the only way to stay safe + free. I would do the same. Hope you'll add more Islamic countries like Saudi Arabia soon."

Wilders, whose Party for Freedom is polling strongly before the Netherlands' March 15 election, later tweeted: "No more immigration from any Islamic country is exactly what we need. Also in The Netherlands. For Islam and freedom are incompatible."

The far-right National Democratic Party in Germany celebrated what it described as "the massive restriction on the entry of pseudo-refugees and Muslims to the USA."

"For the first time ever one can say from a nationalist perspective: keep going, USA," the party wrote on its official Facebook page.

In Italy, the leader of the anti-immigrant Northern League party also expressed admiration.

"What Trump's doing on the other side of the ocean, I'd like it done also here," Matteo Salvini told reporters on the sidelines of a conference.

Referring to the hundreds of thousands of asylum-seekers and economic migrants rescued while crossing the Mediterranean and brought to Italy in the last few years,

Salvini said there is "an invasion underway which needs to be blocked."

Salvini is pressing for early elections and courting other far-right leaders for a possible campaign coalition.

Italy Interior Minister Marco Minniti, who had held top security roles in recent governments, warned against "equating immigration and terrorism."

"Let's be careful," Minniti said in a speech Sunday to officials from the main government coalition party, the Democrats. "Dissatisfaction and marginalization becomes the culture terrain of terrorism."

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