At the largest-ever gathering of diplomats hosted by City Hall, London’s Muslim mayor Sadiq Khan called on diplomats to condemn the “cruel and prejudiced” ban on citizens of seven Muslim-majority countries entering the United States.
Addressing more than 100 countries, including five of the seven states that are subjected to the ban, he said the international community had “a responsibility to show moral leadership” and join him in speaking out against the ban.
“The Executive Order signed by President Trump will not only see the US turn its back on its obligation to refugees fleeing persecution at a time when great nations around the world should be doing more, not less – it risks playing straight into the hands of terrorists and extremists whose overriding goal is to divide people and deceive them into believing that Islam is incompatible with Western values,”he said.
The Mayor’s condemnation coincided with the news leak that 900 State Department officials had signed a memo in the so-called ‘Dissent Channel’ set up to allow US diplomats to express disagreement on a serious foreign policy matter without fear of retribution.
In the memo diplomats state that the Executive Order will have the opposite of its intended effect by making Americans less safe by “increasing anti-American sentiment”. It would also “sour relations” with the seven countries as well as much of the Muslim world.
By alienating these countries, the memo noted, “we lose access the intelligence and resources needed to fight the root causes of terror abroad, before an attack occurs within our borders.”
Beyond criticising the order’s effectiveness, the memo stated that the ban “stands in opposition to the core American and constitutional values that we, as federal employees, took an oath to uphold,” echoing the views of departing US Ambassador Matthew Barzun, who urged diplomats – in relation to the ban or any other policy matter – to speak up if they felt a policy was unconstitutional.
The memo also suggests some alternative ways forward, such as enhanced checks and continuous vetting of visa holders, before concluding: “We Are Better Than This Ban”.
The State Department created the dissent channel in 1971 as a response to concerns that contrary opinions were suppressed or ignored during the Vietnam War. Dissent memos are required to be distributed to the most senior officials in the State Department, including the Secretary of State.
The issuing of the Executive Order initially caused confusion at US borders and consular posts globally, including London, where information on their website contradicted statements made by the UK government that it had secured an excemption from the ban for British dual nationals.
Diplomats told Embassy that despite the legal challenge to the ban and the Federal Appeal Court decision not to reinstate it, there was still uncertainty. “Our nationals with visas are free to travel now, but what about the future? President Trump is determined to have some form of travel ban reinstated. So if something changes, our citizens may be caught in transit.”