Some members of an Iroquois lacrosse team embroiled in a passport controversy have been cleared to get on a flight to the sport's world championship in England - but only if they have been born in the United States.
"We just got of the phone with the U.S. State department, who are going to clear ... the players who are under their jurisdiction," Percy Abrams, executive director of the Iroquois Nationals, said on Wednesday.
Since the U.S.-born players had been cleared, officials from the United Kingdom had promised to issue them a one-time visa, he said. However, whether the team's Canadian-born players would be allowed to travel was still up in the air, he added.
"We are going to be making contact with the [U.S. State Department's]Canadian counterparts and hopefully they will offer the same," he said.
However, a U.S. State Department official would not confirm whether the team would be allowed to travel on their Iroquois passports.
"The department stands ready to assist the Iroqois lacrosse team to obtain U.S. passports. Requiring the Iroqois lacrosse team to have U.S. passports is not a violation of treaty obligations...according to the U.S. Department of State," said Darby Holliday, department spokesman, refusing to comment further.
On Wednesday, the team was rushing to get to Kennedy International Airport in time for their 4 p.m. flight to England, where they will play their first game on Thursday evening in Manchester. Dr. Abrams said he's feeling "optimistic," that the team and their family members will all get on the flight as well, but he added: "nothing's assured."
On Tuesday, the 23 members of the New York-based squad arrived at a Delta terminal at Kennedy International Airport wearing team jackets and shirts. Their manager, Ansley Jemison, didn't expect to be allowed to board their flight to Amsterdam and wasn't surprised to be turned away at the check-in desk.
The players want to use passports issued by the Iroquois Confederacy. The Iroquois previously have travelled using those passports. But the U.S. government says that, unlike U.S. passports, the Iroquois passports aren't acceptable under new, stricter immigration rules.
U.S. officials previously informed the team that new security rules for international travellers meant that their old passports - low-tech, partly handwritten documents issued by the Iroquois confederacy of six Indian nations - wouldn't be honoured.
On Tuesday State Department spokesman P.J. Crowley said the government had offered team members U.S. passports if they want them.
"We are trying to see if there's a way to help them," he said. "The easiest way to accomplish what they want to accomplish is to get them a U.S. passport. We've been willing to do that, you know, for a number of days and we stand ready to do that today."
The players regard U.S. government-issued documents as an attack on their identity.
With files from Associated PressReport Typo/Error
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