Angela Merkel was forced to explain the concept of the Geneva refugee convention to US President Donald Trump in a phone call on Saturday (28 January), following the Republican's decision to ban immigrants from seven Muslim-majority countries. The German chancellor expressed disappointment on the executive order signed by Trump that implies a temporary ban on people entering the US from Iraq, Iran, Yemen, Sudan, Libya and Somalia, and an unspecified ban on Syrian refugees.

"The chancellor regrets the US government's entry ban against refugees and the citizens of certain countries," Steffen Seibert, a spokesperson for Merkel, said in a statement following a phone call between the two leaders.

"The Geneva refugee convention requires the international community to take in war refugees on humanitarian grounds. All signatory states are obligated to do. The German government explained this policy in their call yesterday [on Saturday]," Seibert added.

He continued that the German government would now look into the effects the ban could have on those who held dual citizenship.

"[Merkel] is convinced that the necessary, decisive battle against terrorism does not justify a general suspicion against people of a certain origin or a certain religion," he said, adding that the government would "represent their interests, if necessary, before our American partners".

A summary of the phone call which was released jointly by the two administrations, however, did not refer to any mentions of the ban.

Merkel is not the only international leader to express concern over the immigration ban. In France, President François Hollande said, "We must conduct firm dialogue with the new American administration which has shown it has its own approach to the problems we all face." The French president was speaking at a meeting of southern EU leaders in Lisbon, Portugal on Saturday.

Donald Trump, Angela Merkel
US President Donald Trump and German Chancellor Angela Merkel spoke over the phone on 28 January Getty Images

"When there are statements from the US president about Europe and when he talks about Brexit being a model for other countries, I think we must respond... When he refuses the arrival of refugees, while Europe has done its duty, we have to respond," he added.

Italy's Prime Minister Paolo Gentiloni tweeted: "Open society; plural identity; no discrimination", in response to Trump's actions.

In the UK, Prime Minister Theresa May took a softer stand on the issue and said that the US has the choice to do what is best with its domestic policies.

"But we do not agree with this kind of approach, and it is not one we will be taking. We are studying this new executive order to see what it means and what the legal effects are, and, in particular, what the consequences are for UK nationals," a spokesperson for May said.

London Mayor Sadiq Khan, a vocal critic of Trump's, was more scathing in his response, calling the ban "shameful and cruel".

"The USA has a proud history of welcoming and resettling refugees. The President can't just turn his back on this global crisis - all countries need to play their part.

"While every country has the right to set its own immigration policies, this new policy flies in the face of the values of freedom and tolerance that the USA was built upon," he said in a post on Facebook, adding that the ban could affect many British citizens who have dual nationality.