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Trump to block Syrian refugees, establish 'safe zones'

Trump intends to stop accepting Syrian refugees indefinitely [AFP]

Date of publication: 26 January, 2017

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Donald Trump’s administration has laid down plans to block entry to all Syrian refugees and establish “safe zones” within Syria and neighbouring countries, according to a draft executive order.

Donald Trump’s administration has laid down plans to block the entry of all Syrian refugees into the US and to establish “safe zones” within Syria and neighbouring countries, according to a draft executive order.

The draft obtained by The Washington Post, Associated Press and a number of other US news outlets shows that Trump intends to stop accepting Syrian refugees indefinitely and will suspend the United States' broader refugee programme for 120 days.

The president also plans to suspend issuing visas for people from Iran, Iraq, Libya, Somalia, Sudan, Syria or Yemen for at least 30 days, according to the draft.

Trump is expected to sign the order this week, however it is not clear whether the draft will be revised before then.

According to it’s current version, Trump is to order the Pentagon and State Department to produce a plan for setting up “safe zones” for refugees in Syria and neighbouring countries.

"The Secretary of State, in conjunction with the Secretary of Defense, is directed within 90 days of the date of this order to produce a plan to provide safe areas in Syria and in the surrounding region in which Syrian nationals displaced from their homeland can await firm settlement, such as repatriation or potential third-country resettlement," the draft order said.

The document does not specify what constitutes a “safe zone”, where these zones will be located or how they will be defended against attack by the Syrian regime or the Islamic State group, if located within Syria.

Syria’s neighbours, Turkey, Lebanon and Jordan already host the bulk of the Syrian refugee population.

The plan if implemented could mean a higher US involvement in the Syrian conflict.

The administration of former President Barack Obama had ruled out such a policy because it risked a military confrontation between the US and the Syrian regime’s main backer, Russia.

Trump on Wednesday approved two executive orders on immigration, in which he decreed government agencies to begin work to "build a large physical barrier on the southern border," and "create more detention space for illegal immigrants along the southern border" according to White House spokesman Sean Spicer.

Stemming immigration was a central plank of Trump's election campaign. His signature policy prescription was to build a wall across the 2,000-mile (3,200-kilometre) border between the United States and Mexico.

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