A high-profile Australian author and Muslim activist was refused entry to the United States today and put on a plane home after arriving for a speaking engagement, sparking calls for a re-think by border officials. Yassmin Abdel-Magied, an advocate for youth, women and those from culturally and linguistically diverse backgrounds, said she was stopped at immigration and ordered out of the country. “Roughly three hours since touch down in Minneapolis, I’m on a plane back,” she tweeted. “Well, guess that tightening of immigration laws business is working, despite my Australian passport. We’re taking off now.” A statement by US Customs and Border Protection, cited by Australian media, said she did not have the right visa.
Abdel-Magied was due to appear in New York to discuss online hate against Muslims and the difficulties of being a young Muslim woman in Western countries at a forum organised by PEN International, a freedom of expression organisation. PEN America chief Suzanne Nossel said she was dismayed by the decision and understood it was the same type of visa used previously for similar trips without issue. She said the purpose of the PEN World Voices Festival, founded after the 9/11 attacks, was to sustain links between the US and the wider world. This, she said, was being jeopardised “by efforts at visa bans and tightened immigration restrictions” which threatened “to choke off vital channels of dialogue that are protected under the First Amendment right to receive and impart information through in-person cultural exchange”.
“We call on Customs and Border to admit her to the US so that she can take her rightful place in the urgent international conversation to take place at the festival next week.” Adbel-Magied, 27, said authorities seized her phone and passport before putting her on a plane out. “Those who say the world is borderless are those who have the right colour passports — or birthplace,” she tweeted. Abdel-Magied, a former Queensland state Young Australian of the Year and mechanical engineer, was born in Sudan but migrated to Australia in 1992.
She moved to London last year. She has worked as a presenter for the Australian Broadcasting Corporation and formerly served on the government’s Council for Australian-Arab Relations. She sparked an outcry in Australia over an Anzac Day social media post which referred to current global conflicts and the plight of asylum-seekers detained by Australia in offshore camps. Anzac Day annually marks the ill-fated 1915 landing of the Australian and New Zealand Army Corps in modern-day Turkey during World War I. Australia’s Department of Foreign Affairs said it was aware she had been denied entry. “Like Australia, the US administers a strict entry regime. The decision on who can enter the US is a matter solely for the US government,” it added.