Employee on travel ban: “I’ve seen first-hand how this ridiculous order is ruining people’s lives”
Airports around the world have been in chaos this last week after United States President Donald Trump signed an executive order on immigration effectively banning citizens from seven nations from entering the United States. The temporary travel ban means people from Iran, Iraq, Syria, Sudan, Somalia, Libya and Yemen cannot enter the United States.
An airport worker at Dubai airport spoke to The Guardian about her experiences during the uncertain time
The first day was filled with confusion
“For the first 48 hours after President Donald Trump signed his executive order on immigration, me and my co-workers at the Dubai airport were scrambling to figure out how to implement it.
We were checking the Guardian and the BBC for clues on what the order meant, while our colleagues in American airports were learning details from CNN – accepting or rejecting passengers based on the latest news.
Like many airport workers around the world, I have been handed the unwelcome task of enforcing Trump’s executive order over the past week, with little or no guidance from the US government.”
There were mixed messages and airport workers were unsure how to proceed
“Mixed messages and confusion reigned on the first day following Trump’s order. Officers responsible for checking documents told me that green card holders and US dual nationals should not be allowed on flights while another told me the opposite.
Turning people away was heart-wrenching; my colleagues and I were in disbelief. For instance, 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% of our destinations as she holds a Syrian passport, which left her stuck in the airport for 48 hours – even Dubai does not allow Syrians to enter without a visa.
Dubai is a transit hub for the region and people with the listed nationalities often pass through the airport. My colleague who deals with inadmissible passengers said there were dozens in the first day. I heard about two Syrian doctors who were coming from Saudi Arabia and had US visitor visas. They were sent back to Saudi and forfeited the money they’d spent on hotels and flights.”
Employees did their best to ensure travellers were granted entry at their next destination
“Whenever we came across someone who may potentially be banned under the order, we contacted the US Customs and Border Protection and put in a more informal call to the airport the person was destined for to ensure they’d be granted entry. Some airports said yes, others said no, while some depended on what time and who was on duty.
By Sunday afternoon, the process became more formalized, where anybody with a nationality from one of these countries was flagged instantly and taken for additional screening. Green card holders were from then on allowed to board, but it’s my guess that any other visa holders will be denied.”
“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.”
Employees at Dubai International Airport need to be commended for their job on a difficult task
With little direction or guidance from the US Government in the first 24 hours of the travel ban, airport employees did their best to ensure that people travelling through Dubai would be granted entry at their final destination in the States. Now, with a more formalized process in effect, the employee’s instructions are clear, however for staff at the airport dealing with the stories of stranded travellers is no easy thing.