‘Disbelieving’: Australian politician on official study trip denied entry to US

Australian Associated Press | Saturday 29 July 2017

Lebanon-born Victorian Labor MP Khalil Eideh stuck in Vancouver after being stopped boarding Denver flight with group

Victorian MP Khalil Eideh, pictured holding a basketball was stopped from boarding a flight from Vancouver to Denver. Photograph: Victorian Parliament

 

An Australian state MP has been prevented from entering the United States, and fellow travelling politicians have been given no reason for the move.

Lebanon-born Khalil Eideh, a Labor MP in Victoria, was stuck in Vancouver on Friday after a United Airlines staffer told him he was not allowed to board a flight to Denver with the rest of the group.

“The United Airlines staff knew he had been denied entry to the US before any of us,” the Sex party MP Fiona Patten told AAP from Denver on Friday.

“He was incredibly upset … disbelieving.”

Patten said Eideh was not told why he wasn’t allowed on the plane.

Labor MP Natalie Suleyman said Eideh was originally told he was not booked on the flight before the check-in staff broke the bad news.

“They said “you’ve been denied entry to the States,” Suleyman said. Eideh was given no explanation, she said.

Eideh was born in Tripoli in Lebanon to Syrian parents who follow the Alawite Islamic faith.
He moved to Australia in 1970 aged 15 and later became a mail officer with Australia Post. From the 19 years up until he entered parliament in 2006 he was managing director of Bluestar Logistics, a trucking company based in Melbourne’s west.

When elected as an upper house MP for the Western Metropolitan Region, Eideh faced attacks over a letter he signed in 2002 seeking to get the Syrian Honorary Counsel in Melbourne removed because he played a “divisive” role in the local community.

“At a time when the danger and threat from the colonial and Zionist is increasing on our Arabic world in general … an oppressive mentality surfaced in Melbourne, Australia, aiming to create a tremendous crisis within the Alawi Islamic Association,” the letter reads.

The letter ended with a pledge to President Assad: “Loyalty, absolute loyalty to your courageous and wise leadership and we pledge to continue to be faithful soldiers behind your victorious leadership”.

He later wrote to the Jewish Community Council of Victoria saying he signed a “standard form letter” to the Syrian government and it had been taken out of context.

“I abhor and reject terrorism and all it represents. I would never assist a regime that supports or promotes terrorism,” Eideh wrote in June 2006.

It’s understood Mr Eideh has also visited Syria. Lebanon is not one of the countries on Donald Trump’s controversial visa ban list.

“We’re travelling MPs on an official visit, we all went through an extensive process to secure a visa for the US,” Suleyman said.

Liberal MP Martin Dixon, Labor MP Geoff Howard and Victoria police assistant commissioner Rick Nugent are also on the study trip.

The group had been in Europe and Canada studying drug laws and were due to fly to Denver on the next leg when Eideh was blocked at the airport.

Every MP on the trip had been issued with official passports and visas weeks before the trip. It is understood a Victorian government trade official was with Eideh in Vancouver.

The US embassy in Canberra has been contacted to ask why Eideh was not allowed to board the flight.

Date Published: 28 July, 2017

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