UN slams Donald Trump's calls for 'total and complete shutdown of Muslims entering US'
The UN has said campaign rhetoric in the United States is harming a vital U.S. resettlement programme for Syrian and other refugees fleeing war and persecution, the United Nations refugee agency said today.
The claim comes after Donald Trump has called for a "total and complete shutdown of Muslims entering the United States".
UNHCR spokeswoman Melissa Fleming, asked about an overnight call by Republican frontrunner Donald Trump to ban Muslims from entering the country, said that dozens of U.S. governors had spoken out against the resettlement programme.
"We are concerned that the rhetoric that is being used in the election campaign is putting an incredibly important resettlement programme at risk that is meant for the most vulnerable people - the victims of wars that the world is unable to stop," Fleming told a news briefing in Geneva.
Mr Trump's comments mark a dramatic escalation of his rhetoric on Islam and is an idea widely condemned by his rival Republican presidential candidates and others in the party.
The Republican frontrunner's proposed ban would apply to immigrants and visitors alike, a sweeping prohibition affecting all adherents of a religion practised by more than a billion people worldwide. He said in a statement such a ban should stand "until our country's representatives can figure out what is going on".
"Until we are able to determine and understand this problem and the dangerous threat it poses, our country cannot be the victims of horrendous attacks by people that believe only in jihad, and have no sense of reason or respect for human life," he said.
Mr Trump's 2016 presidential campaign has been marked by a pattern of inflammatory statements and he kicked off his campaign with a speech in which he said some Mexican immigrants are rapists and criminals.
He recently drew criticism for retweeting an image of inaccurate statistics that vastly overrepresented the number of whites killed by blacks.
But so far those and other errors of fact have not diminished his popularity among many Republican voters.
At an evening rally in South Carolina, Mr Trump supporters cheered and shouted in support as he read his statement and warned that without drastic action, "it's going to get worse and worse, you're going to have more World Trade Centres".
Rod Weader, a 68-year-old real estate agent from North Charleston who attended the rally and said he agreed with Mr Trump's plan "150%".
"As he says, we have to find out who they are and why they are here," he said.
Since the November 13 attacks in Paris that killed 130 people and wounded hundreds more, a number of Republican presidential contenders have proposed restrictions on Syrian refugees - with several suggesting preference for Christians seeking asylum - and tighter surveillance in the US.
But Mr Trump's proposed ban goes much further, and his Republican rivals were quick to reject the latest provocation from a candidate who has delivered no shortage of them. "Donald Trump is unhinged," former Florida governor Jeb Bush said via Twitter. "His 'policy' proposals are not serious."
John Kasich slammed Mr Trump's "outrageous divisiveness", while a more measured Ted Cruz, who has always been cautious about upsetting the tycoon's supporters, said: "Well, that is not my policy."
Mr Trump's plan also drew criticism from the heads of the Republican Party in Iowa, New Hampshire and South Carolina, the first three states to vote in next year's presidential primaries.
"It is un-Republican. It is unconstitutional. And it is un-American," said Jennifer Horn, chairwoman of the Republican Party of New Hampshire.
Trump campaign manager Corey Lewandowski said Mr Trump's proposed ban would apply to "everybody", including Muslims seeking immigration visas as well as tourists seeking to enter the country.
In an interview on Fox News, Mr Trump said Muslim members of the US armed forces would "come home" and that his plan would "not apply to people living in the country".
In the late 1800s, the US Congress passed legislation broadly aimed at halting Chinese immigration. But said Leti Volpp, a University of California expert on immigration law, "there is no precedent for a religious litmus test for admitting immigrants into the United States".
"Excluding almost a quarter of the world's population from setting foot in the United States based solely upon their religious identity would never pass constitutional muster," Ms Volpp said.
Mr Trump's proposal comes a day after Barack Obama spoke to the nation from the Oval Office about the shootings in San Bernardino, California, which the president described as "an act of terrorism designed to kill innocent people".
The FBI said on Monday the Muslim couple who carried out the massacre had been radicalised and had taken target practice at area gun ranges, in one case within days of the attack last week that killed 14 people.
"Donald Trump sounds more like a leader of a lynch mob than a great nation like ours," said Nihad Awad, national executive director of the Council on American-Islamic Relations. "He and others are playing into the hands of Isis (Islamic State). This is exactly what Isis wants from Americans: to turn against each other."
Meanwhile, twitter users were quick to highlight Mr Trump's apparent double standards.
Fraser Nelson wrote: "Donald Trump hasn't always been so worried about Muslim immigrants. Here he is with Rima Fakih, Miss USA 2010"
Donald Trump hasn't always been so worried about Muslim immigrants. Here he is with Rima Fakih, Miss USA 2010. pic.twitter.com/s8rtX3Mmny— Fraser Nelson (@FraserNelson) December 8, 2015
Donald Trump is unhinged. His "policy" proposals are not serious.— Jeb Bush (@JebBush) December 7, 2015