Iraq family turned back by US says cleared for entry

AFP , Wednesday 1 Feb 2017

Fuad Sharef, an Iraqi man barred along with his family from the United States by President Donald Trump's travel ban, has been informed they can now enter the country, he said Wednesday.

Sharef, his wife, and three children -- who all hold valid US visas -- were prevented from boarding a flight to New York's JFK airport while transiting through Cairo on Saturday and flew back to Arbil, the capital of Iraq's autonomous Kurdish region.

He told AFP that he received a call from the US embassy in Iraq on Wednesday informing him he could now make the trip.

"The US embassy called me and said you and SIV holders can travel," he said, referring to Special Immigrant Visas, which were available to people who worked with the US in Iraq and Afghanistan.

"Everyone is happy. We can't describe how happy we are," he said, adding that he plans to fly to Nashville, Tennessee next week.

The 51-year-old pharmaceutical industry manager formerly worked with an NGO contracted by the US Agency for International Development in Iraq, a job that put him at risk of attack by extremists.

He said he had sold his home and furniture to fund his family's travel to the United States.

Trump signed an executive order last week barring citizens of Iraq, Iran, Syria, Sudan, Somalia, Libya and Yemen from entering the US for at least 90 days, a move billed as an effort to make America safe from "radical Islamic terrorists".

The restrictions have sparked a backlash in Iraq, whose forces are fighting against jihadists, and the country's parliament voted to back reciprocal restrictions on Americans if Washington does not change course.

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