Sheffield University Vice Chancellor 'deeply troubled' by President Trump's travel restriction policy

The Vice Chancellor at a Sheffield university has criticised restrictions on travel to the United States of America brought in by President Donald Trump that will see a border clampdown on travellers from seven Muslim nations and all refugees.

Sunday, 29th January 2017, 6:12 pm
Updated Sunday, 29th January 2017, 6:26 pm
Professor Sir Keith Burnett on the Sheffield Walk for Refugees
Professor Sir Keith Burnett on the Sheffield Walk for Refugees

In a statement released this afternoon, Vice Chancellor at the University of Sheffield Professor Sir Keith Burnett said he was 'deeply' troubled by the executive order signed by President Trump that will see America's refugee programme halted for at least 120 days.

Prof Burnett said: "There are few things more precious than freedom. And nothing more precious than a home safe from fear of death and oppression. The ban on travel has snatched the hope of such a sanctuary in the United States out of the hands and hearts of many people.

"You may well be as deeply troubled as I am by this action.

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"I am troubled because I am sure that anything that restricts the movement of people on the basis of country of origin or religion alone is wrong. Wrong in all respects. It is wrong according to the principles of freedom that the United States has been rightly proud of, wrong as a practical way to protect the United States from attack and wrong I believe as a matter of the law.

"But we shall now see how the argument for and against this ban works its way through the courts in the United States. And we shall see the separation of powers established in the written constitution of the United States being tested in just the way it has in the past.

"There will be many who support the action by President Trump and see it as the only way to defend their country and we cannot dismiss their concerns. It is rather our duty to show why we believe this to be deeply counterproductive to the purposes of peace and freedom.

"But how can we do that? By telling the stories of all the people who have given so much to the places of refuge that gave them a home. We must try to convert fear of the faceless into appreciation of a real person's gifts to us."

As part of the travel ban people from Iraq, Iran, Libya, Somalia, Sudan, Syria and Yemen are prevented from entering the US for 90 days or more.

A spokesman from the City of Sanctuary Sheffield, which supports people seeking sanctuary in Sheffield and helps them integrate into local communities, said the organisation welcomed Prof Burnett's comments.

They said: "City of Sanctuary Sheffield welcomes the comment from Prof Burnett.

"The right of people to seek sanctuary from persecution is enshrined in international law, ratified by 146 countries including the United Kingdom and the United States.

"City of Sanctuary Sheffield hopes President Trump will remember this, and we urge him to focus on the humanity of such persecuted people and the richness they bring to our comunities both here and in the US, when considering his administration's policy towards them.

"We particularly welcome and celebrate the contributions that asylum seekers and refugees bring to our city, as witnessed in the "Arrivals" exhibition of photographs currently showing at Weston Park Museum in Sheffield.

"We are proud that 2017 marks the tenth anniversary of the founding of City of Sanctuary here in Sheffield, with the pledge to promote a culture of hospitality and welcome for people escaping war, violence and persecution. We stand in solidarity with the millions of people across Britain, the United States and elsewhere who wish to extend the hand of friendship to all who believe in freedom and human rights."

Comments from Prof Burnett and the City of Sanctuary Sheffield come as a petition calling for Mr Trump to be prevented from making a state visit to the UK hit 100,000 signatures - meaning it could now be selected for debate by MPs.

Sir Mo Farah also spoke out this afternoon, saying he finds it 'deeply troubling' that he may not be able to return home to his children in the US following Donald Trump's travel ban. The Somalia-born four-time Olympic champion could be affected by the ban.

There are concerns the policy could affect UK citizens born abroad and Sir Mo is worried President Trump's decree could keep him apart from his family.

In a statement, Sir Mo, who lives and trains in the US, said: "On 1st January this year, Her Majesty The Queen made me a Knight of the Realm. On 27th January, President Donald Trump seems to have made me an alien.

"I am a British citizen who has lived in America for the past six years - working hard, contributing to society, paying my taxes and bringing up our four children in the place they now call home.

"Now, me and many others like me are being told that we may not be welcome.

"It's deeply troubling that I will have to tell my children that daddy might not be able to come home - to explain why the president has introduced a policy that comes from a place of ignorance and prejudice.

"I was welcomed into Britain from Somalia at eight years old and given the chance to succeed and realise my dreams.