BERLIN — German Chancellor Angela Merkel told U.S. President Donald Trump that the global fight against terrorism was no excuse for banning refugees or people from Muslim-majority countries from entering the United States, her spokesman said on Sunday.
Steffen Seibert said Merkel had expressed her concerns to Trump during a telephone call on Saturday and reminded him that the Geneva Conventions require the international community to take in war refugees on humanitarian grounds.
“She is convinced that even the necessary, decisive battle against terrorism does not justify putting people of a specific background or faith under general suspicion,” he said.
Seibert said the German government regrets the U.S. entry travel ban, would review the consequences for German citizens with dual nationalities, and would “represent their interests, if needed, vis a vis our U.S. partners”.
Trump ordered on Friday a four-month hold on allowing refugees into the United States and temporarily banned travellers from Syria and six other mainly Muslim countries.
Seibert’s comments were the first indication of discord over the issue between Merkel and Trump, who had highlighted common interests such as strengthening NATO and combating Islamist militancy in a joint statement after their 45-minute phone call.
Thomas Oppermann, who heads the parliamentary faction of the Social Democrats, the junior partner in Merkel’s right-center coalition, called Trump’s order “inhumane and foolhardy” and said it would result in significant damage to the U.S. economy.
“The order contradicts everything that makes up the United States’ good reputation as a country of immigration,” he told Die Welt newspaper. “No one should be discriminated against because of their religious beliefs.”
Omid Nouripour, a Green party lawmaker who is vice-chair of the German-American parliamentary group and a German-Iranian dual national, said the new U.S. rule was a “dirty symbolic gesture that would hurt hundreds of thousands of people”.
“The German government must stand up for the over 100,000 German citizens who are affected by the order,” Nouripour told Reuters. He said Trump had not included Saudi Arabia in the order because of his strong business ties there.
Niema Movassat, a Left party lawmaker who also has German and Iranian citizenship, told the Tageszeitung newspaper that the ban would prevent him from visiting the United Nations to work on development issues and from visiting his relatives.
Dieter Janecek, economic spokesman for the Greens in parliament, said Germany should consider a travel ban on Trump and his senior adviser Stephen Bannon unless the order was rescinded.
Trump on Saturday accepted Merkel’s invitation to attend the a meeting of the Group of 20 industrialized nations in Hamburg in July. He also invited Merkel to visit Washington soon.
After Criticism, UK’s Theresa May Condemns Trump’s Immigration Stance
Meanwhile UK Prime Minister Theresa May said Britain did not agree with US President Donald Trump’s curbs on immigration after coming under criticism from lawmakers in her own party for not condemning his executive order when initially questioned. On a visit to Turkey on Saturday, she was asked three times to comment on Mr Trump’s move to put a four-month hold on allowing refugees into the United States and to temporarily bar travellers from Syria and six other Muslim-majority countries, which he said would protect Americans from violent Islamists.
Ms May – who had flown to Turkey from the United States where she was the first foreign leader to meet the new US president for talks she called successful – replied that Washington was responsible for its policy on refugees.
But after the prime minister flew back to a political storm in London late on Saturday, coming under fire from within her own party, her spokesman said Britain disagreed with Mr Trump’s ban.
“Immigration policy in the United States is a matter for the government of the United States, just the same as immigration policy for this country should be set by our government,” he said.
Britain’s disapproval sharpened on Sunday when Foreign Secretary Boris Johnson said in a tweet: “Divisive and wrong to stigmatise because of nationality”.
“We will protect the rights and freedoms of UK nationals home and abroad,” Mr Johnson added.
Government minister David Gauke earlier defended Ms May’s initial refusal to voice any criticise, saying she was not a “shoot from the hip” politician and wanted to take a considered view. “The important thing is we are saying that we disagree with it and we think it’s wrong,” he told BBC TV on Sunday.
Britain will make representations to the United States on behalf of any British nationals affected by the policy, he said.
The US ban affects travellers with passports from Iran, Iraq, Libya, Somalia, Sudan, Syria and Yemen. According to State Department guidance, travellers with dual nationality will also be affected.
Ms May had been enjoying a positive response at home for revitalising the “special relationship” between Britain and the United States, which could be a vital trading partner after Britain exits the European Union.
But her response while in Ankara for talks with Turkish President Tayyip Erdogan triggered criticism from her party.
“Trump really is a sickening piece of work,” tweeted lawmaker Sarah Wollaston, a member of the ruling Conservative Party. She said Mr Trump should be snubbed by parliament when he comes to Britain for a planned state visit this year.
“I don’t care how special the relationship is, some lines just shouldn’t be crossed,” Conservative MP Heidi Allen tweeted. “Strong leadership means not being afraid to tell someone powerful when they’re wrong. It’s an ethos this country is proud of.”
Another Conservative lawmaker, Nadhim Zahawi, said he would be banned from the United States as a British citizen of Iraqi origin. “A sad sad day to feel like a second-class citizen,” he tweeted. “Sad day for the USA.”
Jeremy Corbyn, leader of the main opposition Labour Party, said it should sadden Britain that Ms May chose not to stand up to Mr Trump.
He reiterated his total opposition to the ban and said Mr Trump’s planned state visit should be put on hold. “We need to find out exactly what his intentions are in the long run and how much the US parliamentary system is going to protect fundamentals of rights and freedom,” he told ITV television.