Libyans affected by “Muslim Ban”

For the Arabic version of this story click here 

Washington- U.S. President Donald Trump’s executive order banning people from seven predominantly Muslim countries, including Libya, from entering the US has triggered legal challenges, protests and travel chaos across the world.

One of the many who experienced the chaos first hand is Najwa Elyazgi, a student from Tripoli studying International Relations at George Mason University in Virginia. She holds an F-1 visa and left the country on a transit ticket to Istanbul Friday evening. Security in Ataturk International Airport said she was clear to travel but when she arrived at the gate they said a new update on her case was made and the U.S. Department of Immigration banned her from coming back to America.

She is now in Turkey trying to apply for a National Interest Waiver in the hopes of finishing up her last semester at school.

“In the last four years, I have re-entered the U.S. seven times without any concerns,” says Elyazgi expressing her frustration with the current ban.

According to The United Nations there are 10,000 Libyan students in America. Some of them with families and children that are stuck. Others fear going back to Libya to visit family knowing they may not be able to return to the United States.

Youssef Tarhouni is getting his Masters in Business and Administration at The University of Washington. He is on an F-1 visa and was planning to visit Libya in the summer. He had plans to secure an internship after his masters but is worried that is no longer an option. Tarhouni said he received an email from Optional Program Training informing him that internship may no longer be an option for students from countries affected by the ban.

“The whole idea of interning with companies is for both parties to see if they are a match, but if the company knows that you cannot work full time after finishing the program then they’ll avoid hiring you, said Tarhouni. “I am meeting up with a lawyer next week to see what my options are. I believe the ban will definitely be extended (past 90 days) in which case I won’t risk traveling outside the U.S.”

Another Libyan student who attends college in Chicago and wishes to remain anonymous says he feels the order is discriminatory towards Muslims.

“I think the order is under the guise of protecting the U.S. and its citizens against terrorism is misguidedly targeting Muslim countries. The order feels heavy-handed and punitive to people of the Muslim faith,” he says. “I’ve followed the laws of this country and followed a lawful process to be here.”

Hani Shennib, founder and chairman of the board on The National Council on U.S.- Libya Relations says his organization was looking forward to a more engaged new administration. They organized a conference titled “Libya-U.S. Relations 2017 New Vision, Hope, And Opportunities” scheduled to take place on Feb 16, where Libyan officials from outside of the U.S. were booked to attend.

“Over 200 people from business, law firms, investment, security, and politics were looking forward to this meeting here in Washington,” he said. “But now with no visas issued to our speakers and participants we are extremely disappointed.”

The seven Muslim-majority countries targeted by U.S. President Donald Trump in his executive order on immigration were initially identified as “countries of concern” under the Obama administration.

President Trump’s order bars citizens from Iraq, Syria, Iran, Libya, Somalia, Sudan and Yemen from entering the U.S. for the next 90 days.


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