US visa restrictions for African countries over deportations

2017-09-13 08:24
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Addis Ababa — The United States will stop issuing certain visas to Eritrean nationals and Guinean officials as of Wednesday, 13 September, according to the embassies in those countries.

The new restrictions are aimed at four Asian and African nations that have refused to take back citizens who have been deported. Under federal law, Secretary of State Rex Tillerson can stop all or specific types of visas from being issued to such nations.

ALSO SEE: UPDATE: SA request to ease EU visa access referred to 'individual member states'

The US Embassy in Eritrea says in a statement that it will stop issuing business and tourism visas to Eritrean nationals, with "limited exceptions." Eritrean officials were not immediately available for comment.

The East African nation is a major source of migrants who say they are fleeing a system of forced military conscription that repeatedly has been criticised by the United Nations and human rights groups.

In the West African nation of Guinea, a US Embassy statement says the new restrictions on business, tourism and student visas affect only government officials and immediate family members.

More countries to be affected by visa restrictions

Cambodia and Sierra Leone also are expected to be affected by the visa restrictions, though there was no statement on those embassy websites.

US officials first discussed the visa restrictions in August. The Department of Homeland Security says it had recommended the State Department take action against four nations out of a dozen it considers recalcitrant. Neither department would identify the nations by name.

It is not clear why only Cambodia, Eritrea and Guinea were selected for the sanctions or why Sierra Leone - which was last identified as "at risk" for recalcitrance - was included.

The State Department traditionally has been reluctant to impose visa sanctions because affected countries often retaliate through reciprocal restrictions on US citizens and officials. The measures have only been imposed twice before - against Guyana and Gambia.

Other countries listed as being recalcitrant in accepting deportees from the US include China, Cuba, Vietnam, Laos, Iran, Burma, Morocco and South Sudan.

US refugee ban wins in Supreme Court

Supreme Court Justice, Anthony Kennedy, also recently issued a temporary order allowing the Trump administration to maintain its restrictive policy on refugees for the time being, in response to a request to block a lower court ruling that could allow up to 24 000 refugees to enter the US.

SEE: US refugee ban wins in Supreme Court

The 90-day travel ban affects visitors from Iran, Libya, Somalia, Sudan, Syria and Yemen.

Kennedy ordered challengers to the administration's refugee ban to submit written arguments in support of the lower court ruling. The high court is scheduled to hear arguments about the legality of the travel and refugee bans in October. 

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