Bill English: Donald Trump's Muslim ban is not a racist policy
US President Donald Trump's "Muslim ban" is not a racist policy, Prime Minister Bill English says.
However, English has restated the Government's disagreement with the move, while saying it is not his job to explain the US administration's controversial decision.
English has been under fire for his response to Trump's temporary entry ban on residents from seven predominantly Muslim countries.
Speaking to RNZ, he said he did not believe the ban was racist.
"I don't believe it's a racist policy, but I'm not here to defend the policy, and I don't think it's appropriate for...look, people can call it all sort of things."
Pressed on whether a policy which discriminated against refugees was racist, English responded: "No, it discriminates among them by which country they come from.
"I'm not trying to defend or explain the policy - that is the job of the American government."
Instead, the Government was focussed on Kiwi Muslims who could feel threatened by the US ban, he said.
"We disagree with it, and we wouldn't implement it, and the most important effect we need to deal with in New Zealand is to ensure that members of our community, Muslims who are here in New Zealand can be reassured we are not going to go in that direction."
English defended his remarks on Trump's policy, saying they were "pretty similar to comments made by leaders of other countries - in fact, a number of countries where this is a much bigger issue than it is here".
The Ministry of Foreign Affairs and Trade was unaware of any Kiwis affected by the ban.
However, English said it was still not clear whether New Zealand citizens with dual nationality tying them to a banned country would have an exemption, as had been reported in international media.
"The impression I get is the policy's unclear, but we'll be checking up on that. It's our expectation that if someone's travelling on a New Zealand passport that they'd have that exemption."
Asked whether he would raise the issue with Trump on a phone call between the two leaders, English said he was not yet sure when that would take place.
"The process around a phone call has been a bit unpredictable, so we're yet to see what happens there."