Syrians in Lebanon resume travel to US as ban blocked

AFP , Sunday 5 Feb 2017

Syrian nationals began flying out of Beirut on Sunday en route to the United States after a US court placed a temporary block on President Donald Trump's contentious travel ban.

Trump's January 27 executive order prevented entry into the US for refugees and travellers from seven mainly Muslim nations, including Syria.

But after a federal judge on Friday temporarily blocked the decision, citizens from the targeted countries began preparing once again to travel.

"Starting on Sunday, airlines operating out of the airport began allowing citizens from the seven countries... to travel to the United States," Lebanon's National News Agency reported.

"A number of Syrian families with official documents allowing them to enter the United States left (Beirut), heading to the US via Arab and European nations," the state agency said.

There are no direct flights between Lebanon and the United States.

A source from Lebanon's Middle East Airlines confirmed to AFP on Sunday that citizens of the seven banned countries would be allowed to board their flights from Beirut to a transit country.

The US executive order had barred nationals from Iran, Iraq, Libya, Somalia, Sudan, Syria, and Yemen from entering the United States for 90 days.

Refugees were blocked from entering for 120 days, except Syrian refugees who were banned indefinitely.

The restrictions caused havoc at airports across America and beyond, leaving US-bound travellers in limbo.

Judge James Robart of the federal district court in Seattle on Friday ordered the nationwide suspension of the president's order pending a broader legal review.

Federal judges in other states, including California and New York, followed suit.

The State Department on Saturday told visa holders from the seven countries that they can travel as long as their documents had not been "physically cancelled".

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