Another wall

Is Trump’s malign influence spreading?

A prominent international human rights activist has no idea if she’ll be able to attend an international conference in Auckland following lengthy delays with her visa.

Critics say Immigration New Zealand’s slow response to keynote speaker Gulalai Ismail’s application is shocking and embarrassing.

Why yes, it is – Gulalai Ismail of all people. She does brilliant work, she’s received international awards, she’s a star.

The International Humanist and Ethical Union (IHEU)  is meeting in Auckland in early August to discuss projects and policy. It campaigns against human rights abuses, particularly from religious influences, and has representatives at the European Union and United Nations.

Gulalai Ismail from Pakistan has been campaigning since she was 14 for girls’ rights to education and women’s rights. She has faced death threats and been attacked more than once, but continued her work from outside the country, Humanist Society of NZ president Sara Passmore said.

One of the girls whose rights to education she has campaigned for is Malala Yousufzai. I learned of her existence via Twitter the day Malala was shot – they were close and she was distraught. What on earth is NZ doing?

Ismail’s visa application was made after mid-April, but has not had confirmation it has been granted, and two Immigration offices had given contradictory answers about its status. Another board member had been denied entry, one was still awaiting an answer, and another was initially denied and only granted a visa after a lawyer interceded.

That last one was Leo Igwe.

All four do work to make their countries and the world a better place, and were all “heroes” in their own right. The response from Immigration NZ was a shock, and “embarrassing for New Zealand”, she said.

The Humanist Society of New Zealand will host the international assembly and has planned its own conference alongside, so union members can take part and be speakers.

A woman who campaigns for sex education in Uganda was denied entry because Immigration NZ deemed her at risk of overstaying, and a man who is part of a group starting schools in Uganda is still waiting to find out if he will be granted entry, months after applying. The idea the members would overstay here, when they were heavily invested in projects overseas was laughable, Passmore said.

Nigerian Leo Igwe​ just finished a PhD in Germany, and arrived in the country this week. He said he was not given a reason his visa was declined initially, but after doing extensive international travel it was a surprise, and he believes it is likely because he holds a passport from a poor country.

What Donald Trump elegantly calls a “shithole country.” He, a criminal and grifter, considers poverty contemptible.

“One of the major issues the world is facing today is religious extremism, and no other organisation I know has a mission that can help the entire world tackle this issue,” he said.

“I’m surprised that New Zealand has a policy that would be applied this way. Countries like New Zealand should not undermine the goals and mission of IHEU which is for the good of the world, by making it difficult for humanists from throughout the world to attend.”

Indeed. I seriously do hope Trump’s influence is not spreading.

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