An increasing number of Barbadian Muslims had their United States visas revoked in recent weeks, while there has been an upsurge in the number of application denials, says secretary of the Barbados Muslim Association (BMA) Suleiman Bulbulia.
And, following US president Donald Trump’s controversial executive banning travel to the US by citizens of seven predominantly Muslim countries, Bulbulia anticipates an even tougher time for local Muslims looking to travel to the US.
The BMS official said he was not sure if any member of the Barbadian Muslim population had come from any of the banned countries.
However, he feared members of his community would feel the effects of the order.
“Added to the trend and mindset that is coming from the US government is an apprehension on the part of Muslims when it comes to travelling there. Within recent months, even before Trump came into power there have been incidents where we have had persons having their visas revoked or not getting a visa to travel to the [United] States for business or tourist purposes.
“We have a good relationship with the US embassy here, we have had that for a number of years, we have highlighted our concerns to them about upstanding people in our community being unable to access visas and all cases they say that they don’t give reasons for visa denials or revocations but that persons are free to reapply. We believe that in light of what is happening this situation is going to get even worse and drive more people to not want to travel there,” Bulbulia said.
Trump’s executive order suspended the entire US refugee admissions system for 120 days, suspended the Syrian refugee programme indefinitely, banned entry from seven majority-Muslim countries – Iran, Iraq, Libya, Somalia, Sudan, Syria and Yemen – for 90 days and banned entry of dual-nationals who are from those seven countries but have an additional passport for the next 90 days.
Some visa categories, such as diplomats, are not included in the suspension, and British foreign secretary Boris Johnson announced yesterday citizens of the United Kingdom who migrated from the seven countries would be allowed to travel to the US.
Bulbulia told Barbados TODAY the latest developments had not caught the Muslim community by surprise, as they had taken note of rhetoric hurled at the religious group during Trump’s presidential campaign.
“We have been monitoring things as they unfold and we have been doing so since the campaign began for [US] presidential elections last year. We were very concerned with some of the rhetoric that was coming out on the campaign trail by Donald Trump. Now he has taken over the presidency we are even more concerned as executive orders are being signed and put into effect that ultimately affect Muslims across the world . . . . The premise is that it is for security purposes but this only adds feeling that Muslims are not to be trusted,” the local Muslim spokesman said.
The executive order prompted protests across the United States and in the United Kingdom, and has been criticized by some world and business leaders.
This has brought some comfort to Bulbulia.
“We are heartened by the overwhelming support that is coming from Americans against the Trump administration and against these policies and are coming out in support of Muslims and Muslim refugees ,” he said.