President Donald Trump has banned people from seven Muslim-majority countries from entering the United States, tearing apart thousands of families and causing uproar across the world.
Although the travel restrictions apply to Somalia, Libya, Sudan, Syria, Yemen, Iraq and Iran, a former European leader was recently caught in the crosshairs of the controversial ban.
Kjell Magne Bondevik, the former prime minister of Norway, arrived at the Dulles Airport, Virginia, from Europe on Tuesday but was surprised to find himself being interrogated by airport officials.
He had come to the U.S. to attend the National Prayer Breakfast at the Washington Hilton.
Bondevik, who served as the Norwegian PM from 1997-2000 and then again from 2001-2005, was questioned and not allowed to leave the airport for around an hour. His passport clearly indicates he was the former prime minister of the country but he was still questioned because he had an Iran stamp from 2014 on his passport.
Bondevik heads a human rights organization called The Oslo Center, and his trip to the Middle Eastern country in 2014 was because he had to speak at a human rights conference there.
"It should be enough when they found that I have a diplomatic passport, [that I'm a] former prime minister. That should be enough for them to understand that I don't represent any problem or threat to this country and [to] let me go immediately, but they didn't,” said Bondevik.
Despite being a high-ranking foreign official, he was led into a room with travelers from the Middle East and Africa who were being scrutinized. He was made to wait for around 40 minutes, and was then bombarded with questions about his Iran trip for another 20 minutes.
Bondevik was informed that his questioning had nothing to do with Trump’s travel ban but instead was motivated by a 2015 law signed by former President Barack Obama, which was created to protect the U.S. from terrorists.
The law puts restrictions on citizens from around 38 countries, including Norway, who initially didn’t need a visa to enter the U.S. for up to 90 days. But under the new law, if they have visited countries like Iran, Iraq, Sudan, Syria, Libya, Somalia or Yemen since March 2011 they must obtain a visa before entering the country.
The Department of Homeland Security's website states people who have traveled to any of the above seven countries to represent International or regional organizations can be exempted from the law once their cases have been reviewed individually.
It is important to note, prior to his travel, Bondevik’s office had already been told by U.S. Embassy in Oslo that his passport and electronic travel authorization would be enough to enter America.
Banner and thumbnail credit: Creative Commons, Mikael Risedal