Former Norwegian PM Caught in U.S. Travel Dragnet
Another day, another diplomatic snafu.
Plenty of people got stuck in the middle of the new travel and immigration restrictions in the United States, and now even former world leaders are caught in the mix. On Thursday, former Norwegian Prime Minister Kjell Magne Bondevik was pulled aside and questioned for an hour at Washington Dulles airport. He doesn’t hail from one of the seven proscribed countries, of course — but he had visited Iran once, in 2014.
Bondevik, returning home from the National Prayer Breakfast in Washington, said the move wasn’t a direct cause of Trump’s recent controversial immigration restrictions. In fact, it stems from a 2015 law Barack Obama signed into law, restricting travel for visitors from 38 countries — including Norway — who have also visited Middle Eastern countries.
However, Bondevik said the current political climate surrounding refugees was what jarred him, after he was ushered into a packed airport screening room where people from the Middle East and North Africa faced additional questioning.
“I understand the fear of terror, but one should not treat entire ethnic groups in such a way. I must admit that I fear the future,” Bondevik told Norwegian press. “There has been a lot of progress over the last ten years, but this gives great cause for concern, in line with the authoritarian leaders we see controlling other major countries,” he added.
Not to mention the diplomatic dust-up it caused. “It should be enough when they found that I have a diplomatic passport, [that I’m a] former prime minister,” he told Washington’s local ABC affiliate WJLA. It was particularly aggravating for him because he’s traveled to the United States other times after attending that 2014 human rights conference in Iran without getting pulled aside. “What will the reputation of the U.S. be if this happens not only to me, but also to other international leaders?” he asked.
Bondevik, an ordained Lutheran Minister, now heads the Oslo Centre for Peace and Human Rights, an organization that “assists fragile states and vulnerable democracies in strengthening democratic political institutions.” His to-do list seems to be growing.
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