Syria’s humanitarian ‘White Helmets’ chief denied entry to U.S.

Devex reports: Raed Al Saleh was scheduled to receive InterAction’s 2016 Humanitarian Award in a hotel ballroom in Washington, D.C., on Tuesday evening. Instead, he’ll likely be back on the Syria-Turkey border when he’ll be delivered the award on an undetermined future date.

Saleh, a 33-year-old Syrian national and head of the Syrian Civil Defense, was denied entry to the United States upon arriving at Dulles International Airport on the evening of April 18. Saleh had come prepared with a letter from the U.S. Agency for International Development to facilitate his entry with U.S. customs and immigration, but was told by U.S. officials that his visa had been cancelled. Saleh’s visa is valid until September 2016, and he had not received any notification alerting him it had expired, according to a statement from his colleague and translator Zouheir Albounni.

The electrical supplies salesman turned humanitarian had been scheduled for months to attend InterAction’s Forum, an annual gathering of humanitarian, development and sustainability professionals, where he was being recognized for his work leading more than 2,800 intrepid volunteers as the leader of the Syrian Civil Defense.

The group of unarmed and neutral civilians, also known as the “White Helmets” due to their protective hard hats, work as firefighters, paramedics and search-and-rescue teams. They have saved more than 40,000 lives in Syria on both sides of the fight, according to Saleh. [Continue reading…]

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