Trump's executive order has been greeted with support by some in Europe
Ban appeals to those divided in EU by rapid social change, influx of refugees and economic stagnation
President Donald Trump’s bid to keep the “bad dudes” out of America may have provoked global demonstrations, but that doesn’t mean there’s a lack of support for the travel ban among some Europeans.
If Europe’s elected leaders have been almost universal in their condemnation of the ban, anti-establishment figures and citizens alike are hailing it as a tough but necessary decision in the fight against terror.
Support for populist parties in Europe is rising, with many blaming the political elite for maintaining the status quo rather than tackling the problems they face – including the perceived threat of unfettered immigration.
And with a series of key elections in the coming months – the Netherlands, France and Germany all vote this year – anti-establishment politicians vying for power are applauding Trump’s ban and trading on this anti-immigrant sentiment to boost their chances of victory.
Marine Le Pen, the leader of France’s far right National Front party, has defended the travel ban and said a backlash to the measure was in “bad faith.”
Once an outlier in France’s political landscape, she is now a front-runner in the upcoming elections. Her anti-globalist rhetoric, vow to uphold French values, and stance on limiting immigration seem to come straight out of the Trump playbook.
And it’s a strategy that’s played well with some in France, which has been rocked by a constant stream of terror attacks in recent years.
Damien Obrador, a 24-year-old parliamentary attaché in Bordeaux, told CNN that he backed a similar ban in France because of the current terrorism threat.
“If Marine Le Pen, who has great ratings in the polls, becomes president, I think she would put in place the ban, and I think it would be great as we have never had such a high terrorist threat before,” Obrador said.
“France and Europe should put in place the immigration ban, take care of the migration crisis, and go back to the roots of the problem: eradicating ISIS.
“Europe needs to modernize itself and look towards Donald Trump.”
Le Pen refused to tell CNN whether she would impose a similar ban, but said “France no longer has any borders because of the EU” – a reference to the Schengen agreement, which removed Europe’s internal borders and allows residents to travel through 26 countries without a passport.
Alexandre Laustriat, a 25-year-old student in Toulouse, agrees. “I am in favor of the anti-immigration law,” he told CNN. “We have no borders, and we noticed during the latest terror attacks that the suspects either had a dual nationality, or had passed through immigration channels.
“I think that if France had the power to control its own borders – and with the actual high-level threat our country is in – a travel ban would have to be put in place immediately.”
In the Netherlands, peroxide-blonde populist Geert Wilders and his PVV (Party For Freedom) party is enjoying a surge of popularity ahead of March elections. Wilders’ brand of anti-Islam and anti-immigrant rhetoric is pulling in voters who see the country’s mainstream parties as out of touch with average people.
Marcel Waldschmit, 49, a retired business owner in The Hague, believes it’s time for a change – and that Trump’s ban is a step in the right direction.
“The thing is that people come from different countries here to Europe from the Mediterranean and they get all the help, due to the European Union, and all the local people don’t get any help,” he told CNN. “Trump is absolutely right. Our own people first.”
Cindy van Kruistum, 57, an office administrator in Veenendaal, is worried about the strain that immigrants are putting on the country’s economy and welfare system.
“There’s no control,” she says. “There are so many illegal immigrants here … it’s very difficult to send them back to their country, even if they come from somewhere where there is no war. It cost our government, we pay for them and … they don’t get jobs.”
Van Kruistum says the strain of having so many immigrants in the country has made her lose faith in the European Union.
“I’m not a fan of (EU chief Jean-Claude) Juncker and his crew. I would like a Nexit, also, like the Brexit,” she said.
Some who back restricting immigration say their support of the travel ban isn’t about xenophobia – it’s about security and the EU’s open borders. It’s something that has been increasingly at the forefront of the European consciousness in the wake of terror attacks in Germany, France and elsewhere in recent months.
Joachim Steinhofel, 54, is an attorney and political writer based between Hamburg and Cape Town. He said that while the rollout of Trump’s executive order was uncoordinated and is being legally challenged, “it is right on substance.”
“Europe must secure its borders, implement safe havens in the Middle East and Northern Africa for refugees, vet all foreign nationals who entered the continent in the chaos and lawlessness of 2015-2016 and deport those who are here illegally,” Steinhofel told CNN. “Further, especially Germany urgently needs an immigration law like Canada, Australia or New Zealand.”
The United Kingdom
Many in Britain have condemned Trump’s ban, which prompted protests across the country, but Nigel Farage – the leader of the UK Independence Party and a leading figure in the Brexit campaign – has welcomed the order.
“(Trump) was elected to get tough. He was elected to say he would do everything in his power to protect America from infiltration by ISIS terrorists. There are seven countries on that list. He is entitled to do this. He was voted in on this,” Farage told the BBC.
It’s a view embraced by many in the town of Romford, outside London, which overwhelmingly voted to leave the EU in a contentious referendum last summer.
“It’s easy for people to contradict and criticize what (Trump) has introduced. However, if those people were present on 9/11, they would have seen the devastation and I believe he’s correct to introduce this policy,” said James Shields, a former British Army officer in Romford. “There’s no racism, it’s not personal. In my view, you have to fight fire with fire.”
Former roofer David Gray, another Romford resident, said: “Get them all out then we could have work then. For us English we could get more work, pay our bills and we don’t have to scrounge.
“That’s the way it should be,” he added.
CNN’s Diana Magnay, Sebastian Shukla, Laura Goehler contributed to this report from London, Camille Verdier from Paris, Susannah Palk from the Hague and Joyce Tseng designed the graphics in Atlanta.