Guardian News | Human rights office steps into row as residents of nations maligned by president respond angrily and demand an apology
Remarks by Donald Trump describing immigrants from Africa and Haiti as coming from “shithole countries” were racist, the United Nations human rights office has said, as it led global condemnation of the US president.
On Thursday, Trump questioned why the US would want to have immigrants from Haiti and African nations, instead suggesting the US should bring more immigrants from Norway, whose prime minister he had met on Wednesday.
“There is no other word one can use but racist,” the UN human rights spokesman, Rupert Colville, told a Geneva news briefing. “You cannot dismiss entire countries and continents as ‘shitholes’, whose entire populations, who are not white, are therefore not welcome.”
The African Union said it was “frankly alarmed” by Trump’s language. “Given the historical reality of how many Africans arrived in the United States as slaves, this statement flies in the face of all accepted behaviour and practice,” AU spokeswoman Ebba Kalondo told the Associated Press. “This is particularly surprising as the United States of America remains a global example of how migration gave birth to a nation built on strong values of diversity and opportunity.”
The former Haitian president Laurent Lamothe also expressed his dismay, saying the US president’s remark “shows a lack of respect and ignorance”. The Haitian ambassador to the US, Paul Altidor, said Trump’s views were “based on stereotypes”.
Mexico’s former president, Vicente Fox, who has been an outspoken critic of Trump, said in a colourful tweet that “America’s greatness was built on diversity”.
According to a report in the Washington Post, Trump said “Why are we having all these people from shithole countries come here?” after he had been presented with a proposal to restore protections for immigrants from El Salvador, Haiti and certain African nations as part of a bipartisan immigration deal. In a statement, the White House did not deny the account, instead highlighting Trump’s hardline immigration stance.
Cedric Richmond, Democratic representative and chairman of the Congressional Black Caucus, said Trump’s comments were “yet another confirmation of his racially insensitive and ignorant views” that reinforce “the concerns that we hear every day, that the president’s slogan ‘Make America Great Again’ is really code for ‘Make America White Again’.”
Mia Love, a Utah Republican whose family came from Haiti, condemned Trump’s remark as “unkind, divisive, elitist” and demanded an apology for the American people and the nations he “wantonly maligned”.
James Comey, who was fired as director of the FBI by Trump, quoted the inscription on the Statue of Liberty:
“Give me your tired, your poor, your huddled masses yearning to breathe free, the wretched refuse of your teeming shore. Send these, the homeless, tempest-tossed to me, I lift my lamp beside the golden door!” This country’s greatness and true genius lies in its diversity.
— James Comey (@Comey) January 12, 2018
David Miliband, the president of the International Rescue Committee, said Trump’s comments were leading a “race to the bottom on refugees”.
Trump has made few references to Africa since his election, and many senior Africa-focussed posts in his administration remain unfilled.
In September he amused some by appearing to invent a new country called Nambia while address African leaders in Washington. Trump also told them: “I have so many friends going to your countries, trying to get rich. It has a tremendous business potential.”
Boniface Mwangi, a well-known social activist in Kenya tweeted that Africa “isn’t a shithole.”
“It’s the most beautiful continent in the world. Beautiful,hardworking people. We have diamonds, gold, iron, cobalt, uranium, copper, bauxite, silver, petroleum, cocoa, coffee, tea etc. Sadly we have #shithole leaders like Trump shitting on us everyday,” Mwangi said.
Standing at a coffee stall outside an office block in Rosebank , a commercial and business neighbourhood in central Johannesburg, Blessing Dlamini, a 45-year-old administrative assistant, said Trump’s words came as “no surprise”.
“He has shown the world he is a racist. We should just block him from our thoughts,” Dlamini said.