Aussie CEO caught in 'confusing' travel ban order

HE'S the chief executive of a major company and used to travelling all over the world for work.

But HotelsCombined boss Hichame Assi is the first to admit he's confused about what exactly Donald Trump's executive order on immigration means for him.

Mr Assi, a permanent Australian resident, holds both dual UK and Syrian citizenship and travels to the US on average two to three times a year.

But Mr Assi told news.com.au, he is holding off booking a planned trip to the US in April given the US government's new change in policy.

"It is confusing, I'm hearing that there's a 90-day ban and at the end of the day it's extremely disruptive," he said.

"I had planned a trip in April, but I am going to hold off and see what happens."

Mr Assi, who has employees based around the globe, said he was concerned how his staff would be impacted by it all.

His comments come as there remains widespread confusion across US border and customs control points as individual teams attempt to interpret and apply Friday's executive order which prevents refugees and persons from seven Muslim majority countries from entering the US.

Trump's controversial executive order banning the US from taking in people from seven Muslim-majority countries: Iran, Iraq, Syria, Sudan, Libya, Yemen and Somalia.
Trump's controversial executive order banning the US from taking in people from seven Muslim-majority countries: Iran, Iraq, Syria, Sudan, Libya, Yemen and Somalia. EPA - FACUNDO ARRIZABALAGA

Mr Trump signed the executive order temporarily suspending the entry of citizens of Iraq, Syria, Sudan, Iran, Somalia, Libya and Yemen into the US for at least 90 days, a move he billed as an effort to keep America safe from "radical Islamic terrorists."

However Saudi Arabia, where 15 of 19 9/11 terrorists called home is not on the list and neither are Egypt, Lebanon, United Arab Emirates and Afghanistan.

Mr Assi who moved to Australia in 2008, said he remained concerned about the potential impact on its employees.

"I've been informed that I am now not allowed to go to the US for the next 90 days, even though I have a valid visa in my British passport," he said.

"There is so much confusion over what the rules are and I'm hearing from people in my networks that they're just as concerned as I am about how it will affect them."

Britain's Foreign Secretary Boris Johnson has sought clarification over the impact of President Trump's executive order and tweeted a Foreign Office statement of how it could affect UK citizens.

According to the Foreign Office: "if you are travelling to the US from anywhere other than one of those countries (for instance, the UK) the executive order does not apply to you and you will experience no extra checks regardless of your nationality or your place of birth."

In other words if Mr Assi was travelling to the US from Australia or the UK he should be allowed in with no problems.

But Mr Assi said until it remained clear on what exactly that meant for him he wouldn't be booking his ticket to the US.

The CEO added while his company wasn't massively affected, it seemed ridiculous someone could fly in from Saudi Arabia while others were subjected to discriminatory rules.

But he said Australia could end up reaping the positive benefits of Mr Trump's executive order as workers from those countries could bring their expertise and business here instead.

"It's ironic that he's stopping people seeking hardship from entering the US yet those who are allies to the US can come in," he said.

"It's definitely sending the wrong message and is fearmongering."

French-born Mr Assi, who grew up in Syria, said all the US achieved was confusing people.

Mr Assi's comments come as entrepreneur-led industry group TechSydney condemned the order saying a number of its members were affected by the order.

Dean McEvoy, CEO of TechSydney, said the tech industry was diverse and included people who fled terror in their native countries.

"Sydney's tech community is diverse and includes people who have fled terror in other countries to find sanctuary in Sydney and set up businesses that employ people locally and all over the world," he said.

"We're concerned about the impacts of these new US immigration restrictions on the lives of everyone, including members of our community."

debra.killalea@news.com.au

News Corp Australia

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