An analysis of KLM’s denial of boarding as a result of President Trump’s immigration ban

The Public Interest Litigation Project (PILP) of the Dutch Section of the International Commission of Jurists (NJCM) has conducted a prelimenary analysis into the role and responsibility of airline KLM, who denied passengers the right to board. The denial was in compliance with the immigration ban issued by the President of the United States of America.

On January 27, 2017, President Trump issued an executive order that denied entry in to the USA for citizens from seven Muslim countries. In carrying out the immigration ban, KLM prevented passengers who were about to travel to the United States from the Netherlands from boarding. Preventing passengers from boarding because of their religion, origin or nationality, however, amounts to discrimination.

Based on an analysis of the order, it appears that the immigration ban did not qualify as a reasonable ground upon which KLM could refuse passengers from boarding. Support for this conclusion includes three issues: that it was disputable whether the ban would hold up as valid law, that there was uncertainty regarding the validity of passengers’ existing visas, and that there was a possibility passengers would be permitted, upon review by an immigration officer, to enter the United States.

There is no prohibition under either American or Dutch law from carrying passengers on flights in such instances. There is, however, a prohibition against refusing them under international law. To do so amounts to discrimination on the basis of prohibited grounds, in this case nationality. In carrying out the discriminatory policy of another actor, the USA, in the form of the immigration ban, KLM could be considered as contributing to human rights violations.

This is problematic: the PILP finds it vital that businesses like KLM, take responsibility for preventing human rights violations when carrying out corporate policy.