Trump’s executive order, signed on Friday, temporarily barred citizens from Iraq, Syria, Iran, Libya, Somalia, Sudan and Yemen from entering the US. It also indefinitely banned all Syrian refugees and suspended the US refugee admissions programme.
In a statement reacting to Trump’s controversial order, which caused chaos and protests at airports across the US as many people with valid visas were prevented from entering America, Burkhalter said any measures taken to prevent terrorism “should respect fundamental rights and international law.
“We are always opposed to the discrimination of human beings because of their religion or origin. In this sense the executive order taken by the US clearly goes in the wrong direction”.
He added that the Geneva Convention states that every country should welcome refugees who are victims of war, for humanitarian reasons.
“It is therefore going against this Convention to stop people coming over from Syria in this general manner,” he said.
“I am convinced that it is vital – particularly for the prevention of extreme violence – to do everything to avoid increasing frustrations,” he added.
Burkhalter said that while it was up to the US authorities to decide their own immigration policy, the travel ban had “immediate consequences” on people around the world, including many living in Switzerland who may have dual nationality.
As such the Swiss government was in contact with the US authorities and would “defend the rights of those Swiss citizens concerned”.
On Saturday a spokesman for Swiss International Air Lines, Lorenzo Stoll, told broadcaster RTS the company had “no choice” but to comply with the order and prevent those under the ban from travelling to the US.
“We have a legal obligation to apply the rules. We regret being put in this position, however we note also that we have very few passengers from those countries who transit via Geneva or Zurich on Swiss flights.”
Anyone from the affected countries who is due to travel on a Swiss flight to the US is advised to contact the US consulate where they live, he added.